The Laptop Test
As we sprint into the last quarter of the year I have a challenge for you. But first - a quick story.
I remember running one of my first agencies from a cafe in Medellin, Colombia. I was still a new entrepreneur, full of enthusiasm and drive, and I was (I thought) ready for anything.
But most of all - I was a “yes” machine.
As in, I would literally do and say yes to any project that crossed my desk.
To be honest, as you fine-tune your skills, learn, and discover what you really like to do, this approach isn’t necessarily wrong (at first). There is a LOT that you can only learn by doing. There will probably be things you thought you would love, only to find after six months (or six weeks) that it’s truly terrible.
However, eventually, you will begin to find your niche - not just in the sales-sense, but as a person and business-owner. Once you discover where, and how, you thrive, you’ll want to do it more. As I built upon my skills, I found myself there, too - I wanted to create more leverage in my business and max out what I loved doing.
In a productized service business, leverage is created by people, code, and/or technology.
A quick way to test how much “leverage” you have in your business is a simple exercise called The Laptop Test.
This is my challenge to you.
Ask yourself, “If I were to close my laptop right now, how long would my business last without me?”
That amount of time is a score.
Think of this score as a byproduct of how much leverage you currently have created in your business to date.
The longer your Laptop score, the more leverage you have; and thus, in most cases, the more valuable a business you have as well.
Is it an hour? A day? A week? A month? A Year?
This answer is your new baseline. Save it. Store it. Remember it.
The goal is to extend this number and push yourself overtime.
A full business cycle that includes billing, payments, etc., is usually 30 days. This should be your goal. It will truly test your systems, team, and trust.
Maybe you never want to close your laptop because you love the work so much. This is fine. This is more of an exercise to measure and see where you are at right now. A “Leverage Audit.”
It’s all a game.
Leverage this time to create space, think, and focus on big-picture chess moves.
A good friend, Ben, who runs a great Productized Service called Cash Flow Podcasting, recently told me about how he just took a multi-month laptop test - something he never thought possible. Finally, with the right team and systems, he was able to unlock time for travel, family, and direction.
His “machine” now self-operates.
My first laptop test was two weeks. It literally changed the game and opened my eyes to what was possible.
Where to begin?
You can start by separating high-leverage tasks and low-leverage tasks.
The majority of leverage is created by your ability to design systems, use key software, and most importantly, delegate to A-players.
Otherwise, your business won’t run without you, and it will fail.
This doesn’t happen overnight.
The “lowest hanging fruit” in most cases will likely be to hire a virtual assistant to offload your administrative tasks and “busy” work.
That’s because your business will typically follow this hiring path:
Let’s say you already have virtual assistants dialed in. The next step would be to hire skilled contractors to remove the artist’s “hat” of “doing” all the work, and so on.
Focus first on areas of the business that you dislike doing most, or are weak at.
Perhaps it’s lead generation, cold calling, service delivery, or finances/invoicing.
Another angle I really like is outlining all the things I actually do that are vital elements and inputs to make the business work. Offload as many of those tasks as possible.
Each time you perform a laptop test you will get vital (and valuable) feedback loops.
Document what broke, what couldn't be done without you, etc.
Fix, and repeat.
Whatever it is, finding specialists to work on these tasks frees your time…It’s like buying days and hours back at a discount.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Ask yourself: What do you NOT enjoy doing? Delegate those tasks first.
Do a time audit. Track how you’re spending every hour of the day. This will help bring clarity to see what low-level and/or high-level tasks are being done.
Examine your operations. Which part of it is a bottleneck? What is breaking consistently? If things are breaking and not proactively getting fixed by your team, you will be pulled back into the mix.
If your business tripled in sales overnight, what would break? Use this thought exercise to be proactive with potential issues.
Of course, I’m just scratching the surface here.
Your goal is to build awareness around what you should and shouldn’t be doing; otherwise, it will take you a long time (maybe never) to actually create an asset that can run without you.
My typical advice is to spend 20% of your time always searching for opportunities in your business…Allocate time to your laptop test.
Find ways to invest in systems that will compound in the future. Each day review what you have done and audit it.
When you can delegate and outsource low-leverage tasks, it forces you to use your time more wisely to work on high-leverage tasks.
This creates exponential growth over time.
If you’re always thinking about creating leverage, your business is guaranteed to grow.