Forget the #Hustle/#Grind/#CrushIt mentality – This is the #1 Secret Weapon of Successful Entrepreneurs

I’ve advised dozens of entrepreneurs, founders, and CEOs over my career, and I’ve spent years thinking, writing, and speaking about what makes them successful. I’ve boiled it down to one thing:


Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to leverage the time, money, effort, and skills of other people and tools to get more work done in a shorter amount of time.

I’m completely, philosophically opposed to the Gary V school of thought that success is created by sheer force of will, that grinding 16 hours a day every day will make you successful. Yes, there are going to be crunch periods, and yes, building a successful business takes a lot of work, but this #Hustle culture creates the mindset that you, the founder, are like Atlas, with the weight of the world on your shoulders. I’m here to tell you that this approach is not only wrong, it’s unhealthy, unsustainable, and unscalable.

Take a look at this video I recently recorded where I discuss how successful entrepreneurs use leverage to grow their business faster:

YouTube video

Types of Leverage

The ways an entrepreneur can use leverage include:

  • Money – Successful founders are able to raise capital and put it to work effectively to grow their business. They accomplish this by having a strong network that is connected to sources of funding, they’re able to create a business model that generates revenue at scale, and they’re able to tell a great story to attract investors.
  • Effort – Successful founders are able to convince other people to work hard for them, typically for less than market rate. They accomplish this by being an inspiring leader, and convincing others that their mission is worthy and success is very likely. One challenge I see companies face early on is when the employees don’t value their equity, and require more cash to stay on. The better you are at selling the value of your equity, the more effort you can leverage at a lower cost.
  • Skills – This is closely related to effort, but the nuance here is that successful founders know their strengths and weaknesses, and reach out for help when they’re facing a steep learning curve. Too many founders have their hands in too many tactical activities, and don’t learn to play to their strengths and hire people with the skills they lack, then delegate effectively.
  • Tools – There’s an app for everything these days, and successful founders spend the time to learn and adopt tools that automate as much of their work as possible. They are ruthlessly efficient with their time, and always look for opportunities to eliminate waste. If there isn’t a tool readily available to solve a repeatable problem, they develop one, and it often becomes another product opportunity.

Focus on Your Core Value

Every entrepreneur should engage in self-reflection and really understand what are your key strengths. Where you know you have a weakness, or the task is a commodity that can be cheaply outsourced, you should look for opportunities to delegate.

To begin, you need to place a dollar value on your time. You should consider what you could be earning hourly at a company, how much revenue you’re bringing into your business, and how much other activities are worth to you, like spending time with family or exercising.

It’s going to be a rough average, but this becomes your benchmark hourly rate. If you can find someone to do a task well enough for less than your hourly rate, you should outsource it.

I say “well enough” because a lot of founders are perfectionists and don’t like to let go of a task if it can’t be done exactly the way they want it done. The 80/20 rule applies here. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, just get shit done and move on to the next thing.

Don’t Forget About Your Personal Life

There’s a ton of work to be done to build our business, but there’s always work to be done at home, for our family, and for ourselves as well. Things like shopping, cooking, cleaning, lawn care, home repairs, child care, exercise, etc. all take up an enormous amount of our time. Just like in our work, we have to find ways to be efficient and outsource outside of work.

Successful entrepreneurs pay people to clean their homes, cook their meals, do their shopping, and any other task that is relatively low value and can be easily and cheaply outsourced.

While you may be reluctant to spend your cash to outsource these things, think of it as an investment. If your benchmark hourly rate truly reflects the value you can bring to your business in terms of revenue, then you’re going to get a return on that investment.

How to Find Talent Good Talent Quickly

Old Fashioned Networking

Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with talented people, and they do this by networking constantly. They think about every role a person could play in their lives and their business, and they make sure they’ve got someone to fill every role.

Go to Meetups for designers, product managers, marketers, salespeople, and engineers. Join an incubator or accelerator, and go to a coworking space. Meet as many people as possible and stay connected. That way, when you’re facing a challenge, help is just a text/email/call/DM away.


That’s the shotgun approach, now let’s get targeted. Most talented people are gainfully employed. Chances are that when you’re looking to hire someone, the perfect candidate isn’t looking for a job at that moment. However, if you have a job opening and reach out to someone who already knows, likes, and trusts you, you have an opportunity to steal them away.

You should hunt for experts on LinkedIn that you might want to hire someday, or who could be a mentor or advisor. Connect with them and send them a message with a soft open. Here’s an example of a message that’s worked very well for me:

Hey Sara! I’m Eric, Founder of Full Cycle Product Development. I’m super passionate about product design. I can tell you’ve got a ton of design experience and I’d love to talk shop with you sometime. I think we can learn a lot from each other. Are you down to grab a coffee next week?

I almost always get a positive response from this. Now, I’ve got a hidden agenda here. Sara is someone that I want to hire, but I don’t want to come right out and say it. First I want to build an in-person relationship, and have a chance to tell her my story and try to convince her to join me. Maybe I don’t even have the money to hire her today, but when the time comes, the relationship will already be warm.

Finding Mentors

The same approach works with finding mentors and advisors as well. A lot of people are afraid of asking people who are more experienced or successful than them for help. You would be surprised at how willing people are to help.

Even if it’s your direct competitor, they’re still likely to want to get to know you and talk about the industry. There may even be an opportunity for a partnership.

When approaching a potential mentor, you certainly want to compliment them on their success, but also relate to them. I like to use a message like this:

Hey John! I’m Eric Weiss, Founder of Full Cycle Product Development. I’ve been following your journey for many years, and I’m so impressed with what you’ve accomplished at JohnCo. I’m following in your footsteps, as I’ve also recently started doing X. I would love to hear your story sometime and see if there are any pitfalls I should avoid. Are you open to meeting for coffee next week?

As you can see it’s more deferential, and positions you as a protege. As people advance in their career, they tend to look for ways to give back. Mentorship is one of the most straightforward and common forms of this.

Freelancers and The Gig Economy

There is an endless supply of freelancers and giggers out there who can do anything from develop your product to doing your shopping. Depending on the importance of the task, it will be more important to vet them appropriately.

Sites like Upwork, 99Designs, and Fiverr are chock full of talent, with incredibly varying quality. So how do you make sure you don’t pick a lemon?

If you know anything about me, you know I am an evangelist of agile principles. When I put a job up on one of these sites, it’s never the job I actually want done. The job is a test to find the right person.

Think of the smallest task you can give someone to evaluate them before giving them the real project. Maybe even break up the project into chunks and give a different piece to different people. Test the relationship quickly and cheaply, then give them more complex projects once you’re confident they can execute.

How to Delegate Effectively

Now I’ve saved the biggest problem for last. Once you’ve got the network of available, verified talent, how do you actually go about pulling yourself out of the weeds?

The Hat Map

Whenever I start a new coaching/consulting engagement, we always run into the same initial roadblock. We start talking about solutions to problems, I give the founders recommendations, come back a week later, and find that nothing was accomplished because they were too busy. So the first exercise we always do is free up some time for the important strategic work.

The exercise is to create a mind map of all the roles the founder plays, or the “many hats” they wear. This includes things like Product, Engineering, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, and Customer Support.

We then map out all of the responsibilities under each role. For example, under Product we may include UX design, UI design, Customer research, Competitive analysis, and Roadmap planning.

Chaos to Clarity
The Many Hats of a Startup Founder

Then, for each responsibility, we map out each activity, and how much time they spend on it each week or month. We drill into the tasks that take up the most amount of time and try to identify if they can be turned into a repeatable process to be outsourced.

Chaos to Clarity

Create the Process

Now, for the tasks that take up a lot of time, and aren’t in the founder’s core competency, we turn it into a process.

The easiest way to begin is to simply record yourself doing the task either with your phone or as a screen capture. Talk your way through every step as if you’re teaching someone to do it. You can also draw a simple process diagram on a whiteboard, or outline a bulleted list of steps in a document.

If the process is too large or complex, simply break off a piece. For example, you could task someone with reading and summarizing industry reports, and giving you the bulleted summary in a predefined format. You could task someone with recording themselves walking through a competitor’s product, but you can still create the teardown flowchart. You can task someone with gathering ideas for new products from employees and customers, but you can do the important work of organizing and evaluating them.

Now you have to find someone to execute the process for you. Depending on your situation, this may be someone on your team or someone you have to hire. The more you trust this person, and the more they understand the context of your business, the more complex problems you can hand off to them.

The key to getting this right is having tight feedback loops. The first time you ask them to do the process, meet with them daily and give them feedback. You’ll quickly clear up and refine your process, and they’ll learn how you want the task to be done this way. As they go through a few iterations, they’ll need less input from you, and can completely take that task off your plate.

As they succeed in taking on one task, give them more pieces to the puzzle, until you can eventually hand off an entire responsibility, or even an entire role.


Building a successful business takes an enormous amount of work, but it’s the people who work smart that ultimately succeed. Be ruthlessly efficient with your time, prioritize the work that matters, and delegate everything that you can. Develop a network of people who have the talent and skills you lack, employ people who are bought into your mission and willing to work hard for less pay, and outsource and delegate every task you where the cost is less than the true value of your time.