Lesson #3: Know the Difference between Working Hard and Working Smart

“I had a real problem with people overworking actually,” says Orfalea. “They’d work sixty to seventy hours a week in the stores, and they were busy, busy, busy, but the store was dirty and they didn’t see it. I’d say, ‘Why don’t you get the windows cleaned,’ and they would say, ‘I’m too busy.’”

Even as he was struggling through school, Orfalea always maintained a part-time job. Whether it was working at his father’s women’s clothes factory or elsewhere, he learned early on the value of hard work. But Orfalea was also quick to grasp the difference between working hard and working smart. He knew that efficiency and doing things right was often not as important as effectiveness – doing the right things.

“Busy is not a good word, I think. It’s not a good excuse,” says Orfalea. “Come on, it’s common sense. Get it done; delegate it. I never aimed for busy-ness at Kinko’s. How could a manager working 12 hours a day have work, love, and play in balance?”

For Orfalea, that balance was an important one. No worker was going to be 100 percent motivated and productive if that balance was thrown off. And so, for that reason, he tried to extend throughout his company the understanding of the importance of working smarter, not necessarily harder.

“I reflect back on my career at Kinko’s. We’d make sure the worker was there at 8 a.m. That’s stupid,” says Orfalea. “Why don’t you just say, ‘Here’s a basket of work you have to do, like pay the bills. Here are the bills you have to pay. If you do it all in ten days of the month, I don’t care; go home.’ I didn’t do that then, but I think there are a lot of tasks in a business that can allow a lot more flexibility. As long as you get the work done, who cares?”

Orfalea helped usher in a new era of workers’ flexibility. He did not want his workers to be busy; he wanted them to be effective at what they were doing. And, if that meant only working until 5 p.m. then so be it. Those same rules he applied to himself.

“It comes back to ‘busyness.’ I was never that busy,” says Orfalea. “I never worked past 5 p.m. or on Saturdays. So I was always out of my office, kind of wandering around the stores.” What was the benefit of leaving work early to just wander around? “When you are wondering, you do the kind of work you should do – thinking about scenarios, planning ahead,” he says. “A leader shouldn’t fall in love with the organization as it is. So I had my scenarios already worked out about what we would do if we had an adverse decision. That’s what a leader should be doing.”

Getting more done with less was Orfalea’s principle behind Kinko’s. He believed in delegating and using everyone’s own time as effectively as possible. He worked hard at working smart and in the end, got the best of both worlds.

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