Ari Meisel On How Entrepreneurs Can Elevate Their Personal Productivity

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs and business owners have long workdays that lead into nights. We can all relate. But after working tirelessly as an entrepreneur, Ari Meisel was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and was left to rethink and figure out how to maximize and optimize his time. On today’s show, we’re pleased to welcome Ari Meisel, best-selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, and founder of Less Doing.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Ari, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Ari Meisel:
Thanks for having me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. So for those that may be unfamiliar with your story, tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.

Ari Meisel:
Sure. So the quick version is basically, I got out of college and I started working in construction and real estate development in a town in upstate New York. And after three years of running 18 hours a day, and working my butt off and not really living a particularly healthy lifestyle, also racking up a lot of personal debt to build this big project there. When I was 23, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. And for those who are not familiar, Crohn’s is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the digestive tract. It’s considered to be incurable, very debilitating, very painful.

Ari Meisel:
And the short of it is that, after working these 18 hour days, I was faced with the real prospect of only being able to do maybe an hour of work in a given day. So after getting really, really sick and worse, in many ways, I kind of turned things around. I was able to overcome the illness. And part of that was creating a brand new system of productivity based on this extreme restriction of time. So Less Doing was born of that need to optimize, automate and outsource everything in my life and business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. For sure. Everybody can relate. They’d love to be in a situation where Less Doing is working for them, right? What’s the first thing business owners and entrepreneurs need to understand about being productive?

Ari Meisel:
So originally, Less Doing was a personal productivity system. And over the years of working with thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies, it’s developed into more of a business focused methodology, which I call The Replaceable Founder. And so, the first thing is about being as replaceable as possible. Which is a really hard pill to swallow, especially for entrepreneurs. It’s a big ego hit, in some ways. But if you can’t be replaced, then you’re stuck. And we don’t want to actually replace people necessarily, but we want to become more replaceable. And that requires creating systems and processes that replace the things you do well. So if you use that as a sort of a guiding light, you can come up with some very interesting things in terms of your communication, project management and processes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. You’re right about that scaring a lot of entrepreneurs, about having somebody making your situation replaceable. Because so many entrepreneurs, including myself, are typical. They’re running and gunning all day, and they think that they have all of the answers, and that you founded the company and therefore you know where you want it to be. And it’s a trap that many entrepreneurs fall into, isn’t it?

Ari Meisel:
It is. And the thing that you hear all the time, which you sort of alluded to there is that nobody can do it like me. Or something also along the lines of like, well, we’ve been doing it this way for six months or six years or 60 years. And it works. So why change it? And change is hard. There’s no way around that. But again, it’s that idea of sort of getting stuck. And it’s very self-limiting thinking to think that you are the only one that can do something. And I would also go so far as to say that if you think that only you can do a certain thing, then I would argue that probably means you haven’t actually mastered it because mastery would indicate the ability to teach to somebody else.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Ah, that’s a good point. That’s a very good point. And you’re also making, I think, the rest of the team a little bit nervous in the sense that if you get hit by the proverbial bus out there, what happens to the company? Can it run? Is it sustainable? Do people come into work each day after you’re gone and be able to work effectively? And these are things that employees and associates of small businesses do think of, right?

Ari Meisel:
Yeah, exactly. And so this is a perfect sort of layup, thank you. The thing that a lot of people just aren’t aware of now that are options, is that we really want to be looking at systems and processes to replace those things, rather than people. Historically, you want to expand your business, you want to grow, you hire more people. But because of advances in technology and just things that we know, sorry. Things that we know now, we can do so much more with automations, with free tools, with apps. And that makes it so everybody in the organization is replaceable. And not replaced out, replaceable up. We can elevate the organization by bringing everybody up. I said if you’re not replaceable, you get stuck. But a little more sort of emotional way of putting that is that if you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. For anybody in the organization. And you have to be that leader that shows, even I can be replaced so that I can move up. Many entrepreneurs want to start other divisions or other companies, or invest in other things and grow other businesses. But if they can’t replace themselves at their current business, that’s not going to happen, right?

Ari Meisel:
Right. And the thing is that, if you think about really sort of the evolutionary function of entrepreneurs in general, we’re supposed to be the innovators, the idea generators. Entrepreneurs are not generally considered the people who are the good executors. That’s generally why we have such an issue between CEOs and COOs and the ops people and the visionaries. And when you get an entrepreneur, like a truly entrepreneurial type of person who is an idea person, they get new ideas and like to innovate. When you’re trying to get them into a regimented, structured situation where they have to kind of run things, they often create chaos so that they can fix it. So much of the work that I’ve done over the years, I find, is protecting the entrepreneur’s team from the entrepreneur’s mind.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I think my team’s listening to you say that right now, and probably giggling. Because I know that I too sometimes will get in the way because of these different things that I’d like to launch or do with the business. And people are saying, well, we’re still working on the last three things that you wanted to launch.

Ari Meisel:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So it can be very confusing. And you’re right, I’m creating chaos that doesn’t necessarily need to be there. In terms of productivity, where do many miss the mark? I know you’ve mentioned a few. But talk to us about some of the challenges you’ve seen.

Ari Meisel:
So there’s two really big ones that come up quite a bit, and it’s around communications and project management, or to-do list if you want. But so with communication, so many organizations do communication wrong. I’m not talking about the words that they use, necessarily. I’m talking about the tools. Excuse me. The protocols and whatnot. So one of the big ones is email. So email is the number one productivity killer. Whenever I ask people all around the world, when I speak, that’s the number one that comes up. And the problem with email is that it’s not an email problem, it’s a decision making problem. Nobody was ever really taught how to use email correctly.

Ari Meisel:
So one of the big things that I do with companies that I work with is that email is not allowed as an internal communication tool at all. You actually need to be using multiple tools for different types of communications. So whether it’s Slack or Teams or whatever the tool of the day is that you want to use, there needs to be a separate tool for that internal type of communication. Email needs to become something else. Otherwise you get those 20 BCCs and forwards and email threads nobody pays attention to. So that’s the first one, is sort of being really intentional about what we use different communication tools for and when. So that’s a really big one.

Ari Meisel:
And then the second one is around project management. So many companies you go into, everybody’s using a different method of project management because oh, that works for them. And that works for them. And there’s no consistency to it. So you might have somebody who has a written to-do list, and somebody else who’s using Asana, and somebody else who’s using a whiteboard with post-it notes. And they all have their different merits and definitely have downsides. And we need to have some consistency to that as well. And 90% of the people do to-do lists incorrectly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, I agree. I agree. And in our organization, we used a couple of the platforms that you just mentioned. They work very well, and have put an end to that post-it note on the top of your computer or the bottom of your screen, or what have you. Because you can’t run a company that way and expect to-

Ari Meisel:
You can run it, for a little while. If you get hit by the bus, then who’s post-it notes are you going to look at?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s exactly right. So you’ve now overcome Crohn’s. And what did your life look like today? What’s on the agenda for Ari?

Ari Meisel:
So at this point, my focus, I have a few courses and things that I still sell from my website. But for the most part, I’m focused on individual private coaching. But I do it 100% asynchronously. So I use a tool called Voxer, which is a voice communication app, and I exchange voice messages back and forth with my clients. So currently I’m working with a couple dozen high level entrepreneurs. Again, private 1-on-1 all around the world. And I’d say I probably spend about 20 minutes a day, maybe, on that. And the business is still thriving as it always was. That’s been really fascinating. But other than that, I am a volunteer EMT. So I do that [crosstalk 00:10:13] times a week. I love that out more than anything, almost, that I’ve ever done. I’m quite passionate about woodworking. I picked that up over the pandemic, for the most part. And then I have four small children, nine and under.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’ll keep you going.

Ari Meisel:
Yes. And a couple dogs, three cats. So we keep busy with that. But that’s the work life integration that I currently get to enjoy.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. Talk to us about social media. Many entrepreneurs that are listening are trying to tackle this, trying to win in this area. Some that I’ve spoken to have completely stayed away from it because either they’re afraid of it or they don’t know how to do it properly, they’re afraid they’re going to look not right to their friends or their clients or what have you. So they opt out to participate in any social media. But it is a huge mechanism to be able to get your products and services out to the public. Talk to us about your take on social media for small business and entrepreneurs.

Ari Meisel:
It’s an interesting one because, to me, one of the things we also kind of have to accept in terms of replaceability is that none of us are necessarily that unique. There are a hundred other people, thousands of other people that could do the same thing that you or I do, or any of these other entrepreneurs do. And nowadays, one of the things that really differentiates you is your content. And it’s not content in terms of like a viral TikTok video. It’s more about your opinion and your perspective and the things that you bring to it that are unique, that make you stand out among the other thousand service providers that do what you do, or product, whatever it might be. The thing that people have to realize is, because content is like the first thing that people stop doing when they get busy. I’m just too busy to do the content. I’ll get to that later.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Ari Meisel:
But it’s really easy to do. And you can automate a lot of it. So I wrote an article that people can find on my blog about how to create a month’s worth of content in one minute. And basically, and it’s not hyperbole. You can record a one minute video and then, through a series of automations, that can turn into podcasts, written articles, tweets, all the different things. And it’s not necessarily going to be the gangbuster strategy that you might pay a social media firm for, but it will create enough of a baseline to at least build something and get the content out there, and remove the excuse that you can’t create and disseminate content.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. There’s a lot of people that think that they’re just not expert enough or they don’t consider themselves an expert, and yet they’re running a small business in a specific sector. And just by that alone, they’re an expert from the outside looking in, right?

Ari Meisel:
Yeah, exactly. And the thing is that people have to realize is that they don’t have to be expert at enough or any of those. I mean, obviously they have to know what they’re doing. But as digital and remote and everything as the business world has become, for a lot of companies, people are still buying you. And if that doesn’t come across, then they’re going to go with somebody else.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. What’s your take on 2022? Here we are winding down 2021. It was kind of a crazy year. And we’re still dealing with COVID-19 at some level. So for entrepreneurs that are listening, or I should say wantrepreneurs, those that are thinking about opening, starting up a business, is it a good time to do that?

Ari Meisel:
I think it is. I do. I really think that there’s a lot of opportunity right now to not only grow businesses, but to start new ones. The big thing is how they do it. And one of the big sort of arguments that keeps coming up that I see with people right now is the work from home versus coming back to the office debate. And I am a very, very strong proponent for working from home, and allowing people to do that, and allowing them to do that in as efficient a way as possible. So I think it’s a great time to start a business in the right way.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. For sure. And I agree with you. The workforce today wants to be on their own terms with regard to where they’re working from. And it also allows small business owners to get talent from all over the country, if not the world, rather than having to say, well, we’re in Atlanta and we need to hire those people that are Atlanta based. No longer is that the case.

Ari Meisel:
That’s correct. And the thing is that you don’t know what you don’t know. So I think a lot of people just don’t know that you can get a lot of this stuff done remotely. You can manage those people a lot more easily than you might think. And at the same time, allowing those local people to actually get jobs with other global organizations as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. That’s for sure. I think that is probably one of the positives that COVID left with us, was this new way to look at our businesses and also save some money at the same time. The idea that there’s a company maybe in New York city that says, well, if I hire an employee, I’m going to have to pay them north of a hundred thousand dollars a year, just so that they can live in this area, versus hiring somebody that’s in some small city in South Carolina that can get the work done and doesn’t need a hundred thousand dollars a year.

Ari Meisel:
Right. And further to that, we’ve now seen there’s a sort of underground-ish movement called the over employed community, I guess. And you have people now, because of working from home, because of the pandemic, who are working two and sometimes three full-time jobs for multiple companies, making 3X the salary that they ever thought that they could earn, and still working extremely efficiently. Those are the people that I want to hire. Those are the efficient people.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. That’s right. And they must be reading your book because they are Less Doing, right?

Ari Meisel:
Right.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But they’re being more productive and more efficient in doing what they are doing. So I want to thank you so much, Ari Meisel, founder of Less Doing, best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. Thanks so much for joining us here on the Atlanta Small Business Show. Love to have you back to do a follow up. Got about 14 other questions here. The time doesn’t permit today. But thanks so much for joining us.

Ari Meisel:
Thanks, Jim. Nice meeting you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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