Spending your entire life with your business doesn’t make you a better leader. Mark Evans, author of The 10-Minute Business Owner, believes you need to stop wasting time so you can start thinking bigger and buy back your time, earn more, and discover what your version of success truly is.

If you and your company are ready to thrive, then it’s time to start working on your business and not in it. Mark spends only 10 minutes a day on each of his two multimillion-dollar businesses, and in this episode, he shares how to work less and make more, all while maintaining control, visibility, structure and culture.

Mark Evans: I was in my parents’ house, laying in my bed, an 18 year old kid about to graduate high school. I was thinking, “How in the world can I make some money?”

My goal was $100,000 back then. I don’t know why—that was just my number. I didn’t know anybody in my life that ever made over $50,000, and I just set out.

“How do I work?” That’s the question I started asking myself.

So the power of question is a very important thing. We’ll talk about it here I am sure today, but I just went to work and did what I knew what to do, and that was construction. That was working really hard.

I did really well on my own standards, I was up to $50–$60,000 a year, and then ultimately just started building a business. I had some people start working with me.

Then I had a moment in October of ’05. My grandmother went to the doctors for basic checkup and they told her she had two weeks to live. She had stage four cancer.

Working Non-Stop

Mark Evans: From ’96-’05, I was working 4 AM to 11 PM. I had a lot of people working with me, a lot of yes people. I’d just work-work-work-work, make more money. That’s what I thought life was all about.

I loved it. What’s crazy is I couldn’t wait to wake up, and I hated going to bed. I still am like that, but I can’t wait to wake up to see my son or wife, not necessarily work. It was just every day.

“I had a machine going, and I was part of the machine.”

I never took a vacation, I never took time off, I never played around. If it wasn’t about work I wasn’t talking about it, period.

So ultimately that moment, October 8th, 2005, the day she passed, something just hit over me and said, “There is so much more to life than just doing this.”

What’s your legacy?

I started thinking about this. I was 27 years old, and I started really journaling about my legacy, what I want to be known for. It wasn’t about having a lot of money. It was about helping a lot of people. So how do I do that? I just started thinking about that and my wife. I left on December 31st, 2005, to travel.

The first time I was ever in a plane, which is wild. I started on a seven year journey of traveling around the world with my wife and my girlfriend then but now my wife. I just started extracting myself from pieces and problems of the company and figuring out how to hire good people to help me grow the company.

Learning to Step Away

Charlie Hoehn: Wow, seven years traveling with your wife, that’s incredible. So where were you going? What were you doing during that time?

Mark Evans: We started off in South Beach, Florida. So spent six months there just trying to figure out – initially it started off as a month because I was scared to death to leave my company. So I had lots of dry heaving moments, lots of anxiety attacks, but I knew that I had to get away to and separate myself from the day to day.

Most business owners, all business owners actually, we love what we do typically.

So any kind of little problem we jump in, jump out, jump in, jump out and we’re like, “Man why can’t we grow?”

“It’s because we are not allowing it to grow.”

So for me, we travelled all over. We were all over Europe, all over Asia, all over the United States. There is a lot to see here in the States.

Every time I was traveling, I could be on the beach or I could be on the mountains, I could be anywhere. I just started extracting myself and saying, “Okay what’s my unique ability? What’s my real importance to the company? It’s not me doing everything, right? Paper jam, I don’t need to fix that. If the phone call goes bad, I don’t need to hop on and save the day.”

At the end of the day, it really forced me to get smarter about my time management.

Charlie Hoehn: How long did you find that it took to really extract yourself?

Mark Evans: Well when I became conscious of it, right? For a moment there I was just so scared. These were flip phone days. We didn’t have access to the internet at our fingertips.

Once I really started to get conscious of the activities and my actions, probably about a good solid two years of really focusing on detachment like, “Oh my god my name is on the thing so I’ve got to do the best.”

It forced me to set up systems, processes, procedures, hire better people, have ethics, have a core value and all of that stuff. But it took a while.

Charlie Hoehn: So tell me some of the early successes and missteps, the first few times that it really hit you like, “Wow this could work.”

Mark Evans: Well it was in ’06. I remember very clearly. I was at my condo looking at the ocean in Florida. My team was in Ohio.

Literally I was sitting there and my guy called me that was running with the day to days and he said, “Hey we just sold three houses today.”

Real estate is a very chest to chest, personal, shake your hand, see your face kind of business.

So for me that was, “Holy cow if I could do that, how do we scale this?”

It was a big aha-moment for sure, and it really forced me to start getting tighter, stronger, and more clear with what our real purpose was and what we are trying to accomplish.

Buy Your Time

Charlie Hoehn: The first chapter of your book is Make Money, Buy Time, Be Free. Tell me what you mean.

Mark Evans: Well again like I said back from ’96 to ’05, I was just making money to make money. I just wanted to build something big, I had no clue what I was building big and that term is very relative as well because I wasn’t as big as I am today.

I realized that as I started growing as buying conveniences, buying experiences, using money as a tool not just as a collection tool…The money does not motivate me, the solutions motivate me.

It’s about helping people, driving revenue to grow the company—because if we drive revenue to grow the company it means we are helping more people.

So the good news is, how do we take that cash and go and travel around the world, fly first class, stay in five star resorts, do all of these big things? It may sound a little cliché but for me, I want the first class lifestyle. I’ve worked really hard to get there, so it wasn’t always first class for sure.

But once I started understanding convenience, the power of that is very, very powerful. It’s buying time.

You’re Starting Your Own Fires

Charlie Hoehn: What are the steps we need to start taking to move toward that?

Mark Evans: Well let’s just be clear, it is difficult because we make it difficult. It is actually pretty easy. What if you have a heart attack? This just happened with one of my buddies actually three weeks ago. He had a heart attack.

This guy is the healthiest guy I know, and his business shut down for three weeks. So it is hard because we are the business.

I think a lot of people are playing business, honestly. You know, they said they have a business.

“You don’t have a business if you can’t leave it.”

So the first step is to start documenting what you do. That is going to drive us all nuts. It was the hardest thing I had to do, but again I was gone so I have to force myself. I used to audio record myself on what I would do. “I am sitting here in front of my computer, here is where I am going, blah-blah-blah.” Because we will never take the time to create these documentations but for us to record it.

Subconsciously, we have a lot of things as business owners that we are thinking and we are processing and we are seeing things differently. So for me, the hardest part was just sitting down and start documenting it up.

It is easier now than ever though. You have screen grabs, all these amazing tools online. You can sit in front of your computer and say, “Hey guys, here is the flow chart of when a deal comes in. Here is a flow chart of when we do marketing, here’s the seven step checklist when we do X, Y and Z.”

And when you start doing these pieces, the business really starts opening up.

More importantly, you start hiring people to do the day to day things—the replicable, duplicatable actions—and that’s the first step. It starts handing the little pieces off. As those little pieces start getting handed off, anything consistent has to get handed off for sure.

And as those things get handed off, you really start getting more time, i.e. using money to buy time right? Hire people to do consistent tasks that are overly repetitive.

When you do that, you could buy four to six to ten hours of your day back, literally.

Charlie Hoehn: So you have a chapter in your book called The Problems You Think You Have Are Not The Problems You Actually Have. What’s that about?

Mark Evans: Well a lot of times, people think money is their problem or time is their problem or their staff is their problem. Really, what it comes down to is we’re our own problem. So if you hang out with other business owners, they’re talking about like, “Oh man, I’m a full time firefighter,” blah-blah-blah-blah.

Well what they’re really are, are arsonists. They are the ones creating the fires.

“It creates a Superman effect or Supergirl effect.”

And we save the day at the last minute, the 11th hour. Boom, it’s saved, Mark comes in, yay, it feels good for a moment.

So you get this endorphin rush, you’re awesome, you are the best person in the world. But then you feel crap the next day because you just wore yourself out so much. So I was in that pattern every single day for nine years.

I am very familiar with that pattern.

Don’t Skimp on Important Things

Charlie Hoehn: Did you just not recognize it in yourself?

Mark Evans: I loved it though, that’s the thing. I mean it is an endorphin rush. It is like my drug. So I loved jumping in and saving the day. I would overhear a phone call and I’m like, “Give me the phone,” boom, I close the deal and I am like, “Yeah!” We’re celebrating.

But we think our problem is money, right? I was just talking a few minutes ago about you’ve got to hire people to do your duplicable, replicable, consistent actions in your company.

And 90% of the business owners I talk to are like, “Well you don’t understand. I don’t have the money.” The truth is, you have to have the money to pay them because you’ll actually make 10 times the amount more, if not a hundred times more.

So I’ve had people come to me with no employees, hire one staff member—i.e., an assistant—and literally quadruple their business in 90 days because they bought back so many hours.

And again, what’s crazy about this is it is not just the hours you worked, it is also the hours you are lying in bed not sleeping, thinking about this stuff you’re supposed to do tomorrow.

Talking about marketing and the bigger picture of this, everyone is like, “Oh my problem is sales.” No, your problem is marketing because sales is a lagging indicator of the processes prior to that.

“Marketing is a driving factor of your company and where a lot of people get in trouble.”

They’re like, “Man, money is tight, budget is tight,” blah-blah-blah-blah, “So I am going to pull back from marketing.”

Well guess what’s going to happen three weeks, three months, three years from now? Your business is going to start declining, because marketing drives revenue if you know what you are doing.

So I love hiring those activities out because then it takes it off my plate and I take the emotion off of the plate.

This is all data not drama at the moment. Data gives you direction confidence and drives rev. If we can hire those pieces out, which you can, it literally will save and make people so much more money and give them so much more time.

Hire an Assistant

Charlie Hoehn: Let’s say I hired the VA, I started documenting my processes, do I just tell the VA like, “Look here are the replicable things that I need you to take off my plate and just go do that.” What’s next?

Mark Evans: Well, the truth is I don’t know the answer. If you don’t know the answer, how would I? I can tell you what I did, but what happens is kind of like when the relationship experts say, “Hey I want to have the best relationship. How do I have it?” Well there’s a lot of other questions before that answer even comes to fruition. Some people are searching for it forever.

So the real thing is—one, what’s your unique ability? What are you great at? What do you hate? Where are you bottle necking your business at the most right now? Is it marketing? Is it sales? Is it invoicing? Is it pipeline management? Is it technology?

“Where are you bottle necking the problem?”

An assistant is the easiest person to hire because if you can’t tell an assistant what need done daily, you can’t tell other people how you need done daily. That is the easiest task that you could hire.

We have to get into ourselves and ask all those questions of where are we at and where are we going and how quickly do we want to get there.

Some people have more capital than others, some people have more time than others, some people have different unique abilities at massive different levels. So it really starts with you.

Empowering Your Team

Charlie Hoehn: How do we manage and empower those people?

Mark Evans: Well again, I am still working on this every day, and I’ve been doing business about 22 years. I think again, everyone manages differently.

I have a very hands-off management style. I hire accountable people. If you want accountable results, hire accountable people. Give them the processes, procedures and goals.

I talk to my team once a day, 10 minutes a day, hence The 10-Minute Business Owner. I talk to the team, I get on a huddle from 10 AM to 10:10 on one company and 10:10 to 10:20 on the other and I’ll have conversations.

“Where are we at? What’s our KPIs?”

“I manage numbers, not people.”

So I like to help them by giving them the tools. You are investing in all of these people and processes and systems and all of this, so why not invest in your people too?

For example, if you have sales people, why not hire a sales coach to coach them for you? Because where I get in trouble honestly is I am not good at consistency. I am actually really bad at consistent actions and managing people. So why not hire people?

Again, it’s back to using your money to help you make more and help the team grow and help them get better. Lead by example, do good work, be honest, ethical, hardworking. Have a core value for your company and what you stand for, but then start hiring out people to help grow your organization like real companies do.

All companies have specialized people helping their operations department, their sales department, HR department, etc.

We’ve got to start being bigger, we got to start playing the game bigger instead of thinking small.

Emotional Business Owners

Charlie Hoehn: What about actually letting go like truly emotionally letting go. Do you have advice for business owners there?

Mark Evans: Well, first of all, I have never emotionally let go. I have emotionally let go of the problems.

Here’s the truth: I love the people.

Every person in my companies, I love them, I care about them, I think about them, I wake up thinking how to pay them more money, how to give them better tools, how to give them better solutions, etc.

“I am a very emotional business owner, which I find a lot of people are.”

And then secondly, I think the way this happens is you have to stop thinking small. If your goals are so big, you can’t do the lower level duties. I am not saying it in a negative way, but we can’t be doing invoicing if we are trying to make a $100 million a year. It just doesn’t work.

You’ve got to put a worth on yourself. How much are you worth per hour to yourself and your company? And if it is a thousand dollars an hour and you are doing a $20 an hour job, if you don’t see something wrong with that, we need to go see a psychiatrist not The 10-Minute Business Owner.

You Have to Pay Yourself

Charlie Hoehn: What about paying ourselves? Do you have a chapter on that?

Mark Evans: Yeah, well I did this for many years. Nine years where I never really paid myself. I actually used my companies as a piggybank, and most business owners I know in the beginning stages specifically and as they grow, they’re used to just always dipping in when they need money as oppose to setting themselves up on a salary, setting them up on a structure, setting them up on withdrawal, etc.

So for me, it’s like I had a massive revelation when I started paying myself a $1,000 a month. And maybe you are not that big yet. Maybe you pay yourself $200 a month, $500 a month, $10,000 a month.

Whatever the number is, make a commitment to yourself, and your business forces you to generate money.

“The truth is I actually thought I was stealing from my company when I was paying myself.”

Which was crazy, because at the end of the day, I could always loan it back to my company if I wanted to. But one thing I would say moving forward to anybody listening to this is that you have to sit down and come up with a number to pay yourself today.

And more importantly, put it on auto-payment every single week, every two weeks, or every month and just sit back and let that happen. Because you are paying vendors, you are paying your employee and taxes.

You are paying all of these bills, and if you are sitting around stuck, what is the purpose of building this in?

And I am not saying rob your company. I am saying pay yourself a fair salary. You don’t have to rob yourself. Just work really hard to keep that money coming in and going up.

Charlie Hoehn: This is such a simple thing to do. Just put it on auto payment, pick an amount and be done with it. I love it.

Mark Evans: Yeah and again, not to say that you are robbing your company. You can literally loan it back. But now you have separation of personal money and business money and to really get you excited to want to grow it, because you start focusing your energy on what you are not making but what you are actually making.

It really is a different mindset.

Becoming a 10 Minute Business Owner

Charlie Hoehn: So Mark, tell me about somebody, maybe a reader or a client that you’ve worked with or something that you’ve helped them become a 10-Minute Business Owner, what was their life like before and after?

Mark Evans: Yeah, I have a chapter in the book. His name is Joe. He called me one day and met me online actually, through social media, which is very powerful marketing tool for all businesses, no matter what business you’re in.

We just started having a conversation, and I consulted him and shared some of the ideas. We go into great detail in the book, but he was a broker. He had his face on every sign.

He’s like, “Mark, I’m feeling like I am living a double life. I have to dress up in a suit and drive people around and show them houses, and I hate it. I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s making decent money but I am an investor and I make a lot more money and I can show up in shorts and flip-flops and just do what I love to do.”

So we just started with one, figure out what you want to do and what do you want to stand for. I think a lot of people honestly have identity crises going on.

“What got us to where we’re at might not necessarily get us to where we are going.”

So you have to change a little bit, and that is what good third party perspective comes into play. I was just straight up with them and said, “Dude here’s what you need to do.” And lay down a plan based off of where he was at and helped him get there.

Now, his biggest problem now is that he is bored, and I am not joking. He’ll text me like, “Man, Joe, get back to work, what are you doing there all day?”

But you know, he has books now he’s writing. He is very involved in his business like I am emotionally, but he’s built his business now, I think he’s got 20 something employees. His business is bigger than it’s ever been, and he’s actually working less than he’s ever worked.

It still doesn’t seem real to him. And truthfully, honestly, my world doesn’t seem real. I can’t believe this is even possible, but if I didn’t live it, I wouldn’t realize it.

A Challenge from Mark Evans

Charlie Hoehn: Can you give our listeners a challenge? What’s something they ought to try today from your book that can change their life?

Mark Evans: Well I mean, sit down and ask yourself what are you really doing this for?

Why am I building this now? Fast forward to today, I have almost a three year old kid, I’ve been married, I’m married now, I love what I do, I’m doing books, I want to make an impact.

So my purpose has changed. It’s not just to build big businesses, make a lot of money, and whatever.

“I’m a lifestyle guy first.”

Really ask, why am I building this? I build my companies now around my lifestyle. If it doesn’t match my lifestyle, I say no and move on.

Back in the day, I would just say yes to everything. One of the most powerful tools I have not today in my world is saying, ‘No.’

Because once you get a certain level, truthfully, my problem’s not opportunity. My problem is picking one and sticking with it.

There are so many people coming to me with different deals and different opportunities daily that that’s my hardest thing. Does it match with where you want to go?

Then the next one something Dan Sullivan talks about a lot: What is your unique ability? What are you really good at?

Ask five people that you work with or five people that you know that know you better than anybody. Just send them an email and say, “What do you consider me being great at?”

Because when you identify that, if you’re saying your unique ability sales and everything you’re doing is technical, there’s a disconnect there.

You’re showing up not happy and not excited because you’re not living in your unique ability at the best level.

Charlie Hoehn: This has been awesome, Mark. How can our listeners connect with you and follow you?

Mark Evans: Yeah, social media is a powerful tool, I love Instagram and Facebook. Instagram’s big for us @markevansdm.