10,000 hours to make your business succeed?

How long to make your business successful

Do you remember reading about the 10,000 hours ‘rule’?

It was made popular by the author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. 

The basic idea is that, if you want to become really, really good at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours doing it.

The figure comes from a study led by Professor Anders Ericsson, which focused on 40 violinists in Germany. They found that, on average, the best violinists had spent 10,000 hours practising.

Some had spent much more time practising, some less; but the average was 10,000 hours.

Practising a skill alone won’t make you world class: talent and aptitude are important too. But whether you want to play the violin, learn a language, sail a ship, paint portraits or something else, you will get better the more time you devote to it.

Practising for 10,000 hours is equivalent to doing an activity for 3 hours every day – for over nine years. It’s a big commitment.

It also helps put the pace at which you learn new skills into context.

For example, I estimate that I’ve practised my French skills (whether by reading, listening, speaking or writing) for an average of half an hour a day over the last five years. That’s a total of 912.5 hours – plus what I estimate to be 510 hours spent learning the language at school in the late 1980s (i.e. 3 hours per week, 34 weeks per year for 5 years).

So although I feel I’ve put it a big effort, I’ve only practised for just over 1,400 hours – way short of the benchmarked 10,000. Discovering this certainly makes me happier that I’m not yet fluent (although I think it will inspire me to put in even more effort!)

What 10,000 hours means for businesses 

If we’re honest, most of us have a limited range of special skills that we’ve practised for 10,000 hours or more.

Mine is writing, and I do that for a living.

Yours might be product design, engineering, teaching, sport, law, landscaping, architecture, sales or one of many different activities.

The only problem comes when you decide to run a business. Say you design amazing furniture, and you want to set up your own firm.

You’ll almost certainly have spent many more than 10,000 hours designing chairs, sofas, tables, bookcases and more. But how many hours have you devoted to things like:

  • Marketing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Accountancy
  • Intellectual copyright
  • Franchising
  • Human Resources?

The fact is that, running a business of any size demands a whole range of skills. Especially when you are starting out, the temptation is to try and do everything yourself. In our experience, this is a mistake: the enterprises that usually succeed are the ones that make use of people with a range of expertise, even if they buy their skills in on an as-needed basis.

So our advice if you are starting a business is to use the 10,000 hour benchmark to your advantage and follow this checklist:

  • If you are willing and able to devote 10,000 hours to an activity, by all means do it yourself
  • If you can’t or won’t do it, find someone who is
  • If that person hasn’t done the activity for 10,000 hours, make sure they’re aiming to over the course of their career.

In that way, you get the specialist help you need without overstretching yourself – and the chances of your business venture itself lasting more than 10,000 hours will rise exponentially!

Further business advice from THP

For further friendly business advice or consultancy from your local accountants, contact THP today.  With accounting offices in London, Essex and Surrey you’re not too far from a THP branch.

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