Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire

Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire

by Dan Martell
Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire

Buy Back Your Time: Get Unstuck, Reclaim Your Freedom, and Build Your Empire

by Dan Martell


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Wall Street Journal Bestseller

Learn to conquer the one real hurdle to scaling your company and growing rich: Time

How you use your free time will make or break your success. The secret? It’s not about working harder or finding more time to do work. It’s about designing the freedom to engage in the high-value work that brings you energy and fulfillment. This is at the heart of the message that has made Dan Martell the world’s most popular SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) coach. Now, in his first book, Buy Back Your Time, he teaches entrepreneurs at every level how to scale their business, fast, while avoiding burnout. Trading money for time—that is, literally buying back free space in your calendar—will give you more financial success than you ever dreamed was possible.

With over two decades of experience as a serial entrepreneur and founder, Dan Martell will teach you the secrets to work less and play more while building an empire. He’ll dig into the practical steps that will allow you to start buying back time immediately, while also developing operating procedures and hiring practices that will ensure rapid and robust growth. And he will teach you how to invest in your newfound time wisely—at work and at home—so you keep building your empire while living your best life.

Buy Back Your Time is the definitive guide for entrepreneurs at every level on how to succeed in business while enjoying more freedom than you ever imagined.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593422977
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/17/2023
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 19,978
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Dan Martell is an entrepreneur, angel investor, thought leader, and highly sought-after coach in the SaaS, or software as a service, industry. He founded, scaled and successfully exited three technology companies within a ten year period.  In 2012 he was named Canada’s top angel investor, having invested in more than 50 start-ups, such as Intercom, Udemy, and Unbounce. In 2016, Martell founded the SaaS Academy and grew it to become one of the largest coaching companies in the world. He’s also an Ironman athlete, philanthropist, husband, and father of two incredible boys.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

How I Buy Back My Life

Goals are about the results you want to achieve.
Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

-James Clear

By the time Sean found me, he was in the fight of his life.

"I can barely leave the house, I can't take a full breath, and I'm having panic attacks regularly. I'm living a nightmare," he told me.

A few months before, Sean had led a major re-architecture of the backend code that powered his company's apps. He worked fourteen-hour days, seven days a week, to see the project through. They finished by Christmas, so Sean took a few days off to bring his wife and her sister to Disneyland. After ten minutes of walking through the park, he felt dizzy, his chest was tight, and he couldn't breathe. He found a bench to rest and assured his family, "I'm fine. Go on. I'll catch up."

Sean wasn't fine. His heart and mind were racing. Am I having a heart attack at the happiest place on Earth? he asked himself. Eventually, Sean got off his bench and rejoined his family.

But when he returned home, reality came knocking, and his symptoms returned. Medical tests revealed his heart was fine. The real problem? Anxiety. This puzzled Sean because he'd never once had a panic attack, until now.

Soon he was having them twice a week. By March 2020-three short months after his nightmare at Disneyland-Sean was in bed most days, paralyzed by his body's fight-or-flight response. His physical state was so low, even joining video calls (which COVID-19 had made standard by then) was impossible. Sean did everything he could. He studied self-help books, tried meditation, and even forced himself to exercise, which was exhausting in his condition. Nothing worked.

Before Disneyland, Sean was a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur: a thirty-four-year-old, well-educated, hardworking businessman. He studied finance in college, worked on Wall Street, and started his second company (which developed a suite of applications that helps small businesses increase online sales) in 2015. Within four years, he had ten employees, a dozen apps, and more than 640,000 active daily users. By most accounts, he was successful.

Like many good entrepreneurs, Sean was immersed in the details of his company. He tackled most tasks himself because "that's how you get things done right." Plus, he had the expertise to back it up. In college, he'd taken accounting, so he knew how to keep the company's books. He also knew how to code, so he touched every piece of his software developers' work. He even booked his own travel plans and scheduled his own meetings.

Sean had built a successful company, piece by piece. Using his intellect and prior experiences, he'd laid the foundation for an enterprise that provided for his family, employed others, and created value in the marketplace. While there were long days and sacrifices, it had all seemed worth it. Until now.

At thirty-four, everything came to a grinding halt. His body had said "Enough is enough." Now his company's growth seemed in jeopardy, and everything he'd worked hard to achieve seemed as if it were resting on a crumbling founder who could barely get out of bed.

I've been able to work with hundreds of interesting people, mostly entrepreneurs who are passionate about their companies. Sometimes, I'm helping them scale their sales teams, or coaching them on finding top talent or where to spend their marketing dollars. More often-and this is what I really love-I'm helping entrepreneurs find what's eating up all their time and energy. Once we unlock that together, I can help them get back to what's lighting them up and bringing them money.

But when Sean, the founder of multiple software companies, came to me in 2020, he wasn't just looking for a growth strategy, a marketing plan, or even a way to save time, money, and energy.

He was looking for a way to save his life.

Breaking the Toxic
"Get Sh*t Done" Mentality

A UC Berkeley study showed that entrepreneurs are significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of depression, ADHD, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder. Most of us founders start our companies with good intentions-to provide solutions, to disrupt the market, or to spend more time with family and friends. With all these plans for a better future, why are we struggling with a litany of physical and mental health issues?

The answer?

We've subconsciously slipped into a pit of deception: The more I work, the more productive my business will be. On the surface, this makes sense. Work hard, stay ahead. That's the enticing part-the reason we get tricked. But over time, a hard-work ethic can lead entrepreneurs to believe one thing: more input, more output.

Simple busyness can't be the secret ingredient to business success. A hamster on a wheel is awfully busy. So is a dog digging a hole. I can think of more than one entrepreneur who spends hours a day running errands, being interrupted by team members, processing emails-they're certainly busy all day, but there's not a lot getting done.

Even efficiently staying busy isn't the answer. Most entrepreneurs are extremely efficient. They can eliminate task after task faster than anyone else. They can make the calls, send the emails, seal the deals-overall, they can make it happen. But efficient busyness on the wrong tasks simply creates a faster streamline to Sean's situation.

When I met him, Sean had convinced himself that hiring and training others required too much time, energy, and money. Tackling most tasks himself was easier and, to him, the most efficient way of ensuring things were done right. So he did everything. Why not?

Sean wasn't just the bookkeeper and accountant; he was also the chief engineer, the lead project manager, the head of fulfillment, the head of customer support, and his own personal assistant.

His high standards and insane work ethic were undeniable, even admirable. But he was working seventy-hour weeks during an average month and hundred-hour weeks when duty called. Which is why he had an anxiety attack half a block from Sleeping Beauty's castle.

He didn't know how to reclaim his time and deposit it where it matters most.

The little-known secret to reaching the next stage of your business is spending your time on only the tasks that: (a) you excel at, (b) you truly enjoy, and (c) add the highest value (usually in the form of revenue) to your business. Likely, two to three tasks fit that description. Every other task you're handling is slowing your growth and sucking the life from you, and you should clear it from your calendar.

Yes, someone else should be handling about 95 percent of your current work so you can get back to what matters.

Allan Dib, author of The 1-Page Marketing Plan, said it like this:

You can always get more money, but you can never get more time. So you need to ensure the stuff you spend your time on makes the biggest impact.

If you're stuck in the grinding force of emails, phone calls, and putting out small fires, this probably sounds ridiculous. But stay with me. For just a minute, forget whether or not what I'm saying is possible, and instead just consider how you'd feel if you were only executing what you're better at than everyone else, what you truly love, and what adds a crazy amount of value to your business.

Chances are, you'd breathe a huge sigh of relief. Your mind would probably clear. You'd probably be a better spouse, a better parent, and a better friend. Your employees would be happier because you'd come into work refreshed, steering the company toward bigger, better, and more inspirational goals, allowing each of them to flex their own professional muscles. Take my real estate friend Keith.

Keith was successful in his real estate company-no one in his area was as good at buying and selling homes as him. The problem? He was spending around twenty hours a week on calls, even at home. Finally, he solved the problem by hiring a salesperson on a commission-only basis (common for this situation) to field these calls. Keith's business grew, his wife was happier, and someone else made a commission. Now, Keith handles just 10 to 15 percent of the most important calls. And all that extra time? It goes to more valuable parts of his business and to his family.

Then there's my friend Chase-a fantastic business consultant who hired himself out to other businesses, helping them optimize their overall sales process and marketing strategies, among other items. His issue was that every week he had to do ten live calls, one in the morning, one in the afternoon, to help clients fix and improve their Facebook ads that were underperforming. After a while, he hated it. "I'm answering the same questions over and over and over again, on every call." It was draining him, and, worst of all, it was distracting him from the other areas of his business. But Chase's a creative genius-finally, he partnered with someone who fielded those calls for free because they offered a complimentary service, and they were delighted to hop on calls with prospective clients. Chase has freed up several hours a week that he can now redeploy back into the most important parts of his company.

Where can Keith and Chase spend their additional time? On what matters most-in their company, and in their lives. By transferring draining tasks, they free up the one asset that's invaluable: time. That time should only be spent on the most important tasks. The truth is, Keith, Chase, and Sean have all realized that they're only really truly great at a few key aspects in their company. Time spent elsewhere is draining (and ultimately costly). What they must do is use their money to buy back more time. That's what the Buyback Principle is all about:

                1.            How to spend the most finite asset your business possesses: the founder's time

                2.            How to invest that time into what will bring the founder more energy and more money

The Buyback Principle means you should continually use every resource you can to buy back your time. Then, fill that extra time with activities that light you up with energy and make you more money. Notice the emphasis isn't simply on "hiring," but on hiring with a purpose: reinvestment. Sean had employees already, and he was so stressed he felt like he was dying. The problem was that Sean hadn't hired specifically to buy back his time.

With that in mind, here's how I formally define this whole concept:

The Buyback Principle: Don't hire to grow your business. Hire to buy back your time.

This concept will not only grant you more financial success than you thought possible, but with it, you'll also be able to craft the life you originally envisioned when you became an entrepreneur.

You'll learn how to use this principle to buy back additional time in your calendar to focus on what makes you money and lights you up. And then a wonderful cycle begins: as your company makes more money, you buy back even more time. The result: you'll be happier, and you can continually upgrade your time and buy back your freedom.

As people pay you to do what you love, your energy goes up and you make more money, redepositing it back into what you're excellent at. Your business grows. As you'll find out in the book, you can keep hiring out those additional pieces that are must-dos, but not for you to do-administrative work, customer delivery, follow-up, even sales. As more work comes in, and you stay focused on what you enjoy, your business will pull in more revenue.

The Buyback Principle means that entrepreneurs shouldn't be checking email unless they want to.

The Buyback Principle means you excel at a few tasks, and you're mediocre at best at the others.

The Buyback Principle means that when you're choosing what to do today, you should be selecting the highest-value tasks.

If you don't believe me, I get it. Most entrepreneurs don't. Sean didn't either. Until he tried it.

The Rest of Sean's Story

When Sean finally got ahold of this Buyback Principle and started focusing on those areas that were most important, everything changed.

While he was largely bedridden and struggling to take a deep breath on a daily basis, this hardworking, problem-solving founder found my material and devoured everything I taught, over a two-week, video-watching binge. For the first time, Sean saw the lunacy of how he was running the company. More importantly, he saw a better way forward.

He immediately began auditing his time, and what he found was remarkable. Sean shared with me, "I've always been mindful of my time. But when I wrote it down, I realized, Oh! I shouldn't be doing this."

Besides the shocking number of low-value tasks that were eating away his days, he was spending a ton of time scoping, managing, and completing engineering tasks. When he tallied his Buyback Rate (something I'll teach in the next chapter), he was shocked: there was a huge gap between the hourly value of his time ($100) and the hourly value of the tasks he was spending his time on ($10). Essentially, he was costing his company $90 an hour most of his workday.

And he was killing himself in the process.

Sean prioritized what tasks to off-load next (I'll show you how to do this using the Replacement Ladder in chapter 5). Then he spent the next month filming himself with a video camera, recording himself conducting every task that he wanted to transfer to his two new hires (a trick we'll discuss, in chapter 7, called the Camcorder Method).

Sean learned what to off-load, what to keep, who to give it to, and how to manage everything. He learned that his entire goal wasn't to manage productivity, but to manage his own energy and emotions, maximizing his Production Quadrant (chapter 2) so he could bring huge results to his organization, all while getting truly excited about his work.

Within two months, Sean freed up more than thirty hours a week, going from working eleven hours a day to working six, making him a more engaged father and a more supportive husband. He even found time to return to his former hobbies, such as earning his blue belt in jujitsu.

In the end, his company's revenue tripled, his income doubled, and his panic attacks disappeared, all in less than a year.

"My only regret," Sean told me, "is that I didn't find you sooner."

Sean's life perfectly illustrates how to buy back your time in a nutshell: entrepreneurs should use their resources to purchase more time. All this extra time should go toward those tasks they excel at, they enjoy, and that add high value to their business. Today, when Sean thinks about hiring a new employee, he follows the Buyback Principle:

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