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Forget the hype, here’s why startups take more than just a 4-hour work week to run


When Tim Ferriss first released his book and mantra The 4-Hour Workweek, I was inquisitive enough to buy the book and give it a go. While I’m all on board with the joy of mini-breaks and the value of longer travel jaunts, there’s a reality that the concept seems to ignore or forget: startups are like newborn’s – the first few years are all hands-on deck, almost all the time.

A business in its first three years is in its infancy, its most vulnerable time. Most businesses fail within the first two years, so acknowledge that this will likely be the hardest period, then buckle up and prepare to go above and beyond to beat the odds.

Just like a newborn, a startup requires strong support and nurturing from the leader and team raising it. The commitment needed to run a successful business means handling every little task that needs to get done right then and there. I’ll tell you now, that these tasks accumulated over a week equates to more than four hours of your time, even if you’re outsourcing and delegating a lot of it.

Reality check

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you work fewer hours a week. Yes, you’re your own boss and you have the freedom to run your own workweek, so technically it’s true that you could just head off whenever you like. But you’re kidding yourself if you think that means taking a 12-week holiday and rocking up to work at noon every day.

Your startup is a commitment. Being your own boss means you need to spend more time at work than others because it’s your business and your reputation as an entrepreneur on the line. Unlike being an employee, you don’t have a standard week where you work 9-5 and go home and relax. Part of this is you wanting to be there for the business; the other part is that long hours and all of your dedication, at least in the early years, is necessary to make sure your business succeeds.

I have two companies and multiple business lines within each venture. My first business, The Champagne Dame, hit maturity at the 10-year mark. While I’m still involved, of course, I now have the support of five full-time staff, plus a whole team of part-timers and multiple revenue streams that all work synergistically.

Because The Champagne Dame has its systems set up so it runs smoothly, it needs less of my time and attention and this means I can focus on my second business, Emperor Champagne, which I launched in late 2017. I now have a three-year period of being ‘en guard’ to ensure it survives the tough early years. We need to be across our financials and marketing strategy as well as taking care of our employees, all while steering the ship through potential storms.

Launching a second business is like having a second child: you know it won’t be identical to the first, but it helps to know what you’re in for. You feel more confident about what you’re doing and know that you have the capacity to weather those early rough seas. I also know that this period of working long hours eventually ends as the business matures. I work hard to make sure I can get it to that point so I can enjoy the spoils.

Behind the scenes

If you see me at fabulous soirees, travelling to Paris and enjoying my business, understand that this is the business I am in and sometimes I also get to enjoy the rewards for my efforts, my passion and my tenacity. I worked extremely hard – often seven days a week, 10 hours a day – to get my business going. I didn’t take maternity leave and I haven’t had a sick day in nearly four years! I have been disciplined, way more disciplined than if I had worked for someone else and it’s because I care deeply if the business – my business – succeeds.

I often speak to entrepreneurs who can’t understand why their businesses aren’t growing, then I find out they are having long lunches and going to the gym at 9am. I’m not saying you can’t do this, but think about it this way: if you are only applying yourself for four hours a week, that’s not giving it all you have, and if you’re not giving it all you have, why is it worth doing at all?

Time is a valuable asset, so treat it like gold. You wouldn’t throw gold away, so why do this with your time? Invest it wisely and you’ll see the fruits of it in the success of your business. Then you can take a holiday.

Kyla Kirkpatrick is the CEO and founder of The Champagne Dame and Emperor Champagne. Kyla, who has a double degree in commerce and Chinese mandarin, left a promising career in finance in 2005 to move to France to study the world of Champagne. Three years later she launched The Champagne Dame and has since presented to over 10,000 people including Kerry packer and Elle Macpherson. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading champagne educators, in late 2017 Kyla launched Emperor, Australia’s largest online champagne retailer.

Kyla Kirkpatrick