‘Tis no less work to build the most beautiful home than it is the most unsightly.

Steven Livingston

Driving with my dad to see my grandma in Jamaica is a memory that sticks with me. I always remember seeing “mansions” under construction on the winding countryside roads.. They started one way and, years later,looked completely different— resembling Frankenstein’s special creations. Conversely, I also noticed that some of the most beautiful houses built t in record time. It wasn’t until I ventured into my very own business for the first time, having made multiple mistakes, that the revelation came. The true differentiator was the upfront work that happens before the execution!

“The energy and effort exerted to build a house is perhaps no less for the most glamorous, as it is for the most hideous”.

beautiful home, garden, new england style-2826052.jpg

When I started my first company, centered on automotive distribution across the island of Jamaica, I had big dreams to take the #1 spot from the largest automotive distributor in Jamaica, Tropical Automotive. Fresh out of investment banking, I had zero business operation experience. Initially, I dove in headfirst with the thought process many of us have—just get started! Get our hands dirty and build from the ground up. While this approach may work for some, Iin hindsight it was innefficient. In fact, I now term it as a “Grand Hustle”. The time I spent as an individual, would have been better served building teams and structure around sales, logistics, accounting, customer support, marketing. Instead, I did it all which meant that my rate of growth was limited to my individual capacity. The energy spent doing all these activities, would have driven way more scale if it were diverted towards structure design (upfront work). 

“By the time I realized what my strategy should be, I already burned through all my cash and resources doing the things my strategy shouldn’t be.”

I discovered that while hustling gets you started… systems, structure and processes get you scale. It however, requires a lot more upfront work and thoughtful thinking to understand who or what you want to become. The part that’s not so glamorous is that it often requires patience and procurement of required resources to bring it to life. It may also require collaboration and input solicitation from experts in the field. Sometimes, it may even require aborting all together after you’ve completed your scalability assessment. 

“The decision to not do something, is sometimes the greatest victory for a given scenario.” 

Do you have that friend that boasts about working nonstop for 12 hours and a structure being dependent solely on them? They usually sound uber proud don’t they? if they are truly your friend, please inform them, they are victims of the grand hustle.

Here are a few steps to keep in mind or share with that friend to avoid the “grand hustle”:

  1. Clearly define your goals. Visualize and articulate what success looks like upon achievement 
  2. Create a systematic plan that breaks down your path into achievable steps and milestones. As best as possible, place them in themes or buckets e.g Marketing, Logistics, Accounting, Customer Support etc
  3. Be clear on the resources required to make it happen at each stage of the journey to success. This should support your 3 to 5 year projections. 
  4. Pressure test it with experts – Advisor, Mentor, Business Owner. Avoid sharing with people that aren’t. Gremlins are deadly. 
  5. Identify and gather resources required to hit your milestone, including the initial team you will need to accomplish. (Loan, Investor, Friends and Family, Savings etc.). Be realistic and don’t think you’ll make it work with less than you need.  Include as well within that, room for delays or curveballs to the plan. 

Today, before embarking on anything, or making a continue/stop decision,  I ask myself 3 scalability questions:

1) Does this opportunity/function/activity represent the maximum output that I can get for the energy, time, and resource exerted? 

2) Can it operate without me?

3) Can it be delegated repeatedly or can it be automated through systems? 

If the answer to any of these is no, it’s an indicator that upfront work is required to turn each one into a yes. If it’s not possible to turn into a yes, it’s an indicator that construction is underway for the wrong house. Abort and draw the right blueprint. 

Our time and energy are our most valuable resources. Take care how you invest it, and let’s all focus on building gracious homes .. after all ….it’s the same effort to build the most beautiful, or the most unsightly! 

This Is Steven

Steven Livingston