May 26, 2013

Business Unusual

The 150 Hour Work Week in #SecondLife


In a recent blog post by April Looming at WyldStyle Fashions (go read it, I’ll be here when you get back), she goes into the topic of “Tips on Operating a Profitable Business in Second Life. For a large majority of her post, I found myself nodding in agreement, but also thinking of the underlying reasons for why much of what she says is true. Though the 3% success rate is probably just an abstraction, it is likely closer to home than we think – so for the purpose of this blog post we’re just going to assume 97% of you are failing or have failed.




The person above is getting more done as you read this than you will the entire week.





We make a ridiculous amount of mistakes in starting and running a business in Second Life, and those are usually the same mistakes we make when trying to start a business in real life. So, what I’d like to do with this post is get into some deeper details about this and hopefully help you understand the reasoning behind why you are, more likely than not, just going about it wrong.


That’s the first thing you need to understand. Numbers alone dictate you are more than likely sabotaging yourself and your brand. The problem isn’t that this is occurring but instead that we more often than not hold an unrealistic notion of ourselves and brand to the point where we aren’t open to the criticisms that we so desperately need to hear.


We get defensive and take things personal when we shouldn’t. If your product line is no longer selling, it likely has nothing to do with the market and more to do with the fact that people no longer value your product enough to buy it. Therefore, by default, your brand and products are crap.


For every time I hear the phrase “I just go where the money is at”, I cringe. I don’t think business owners understand how incredibly stupid that makes them look for saying it. When they have one genre they focus on (maybe Clothing) and then when that isn’t selling jump ship and focus on something else to make ends meet. From a real world marketing perspective, you are destroying your brand identity by doing that.


So when I hear those sorts of phrases, and they mean it like a self-congratulatory manner, I can’t help but wonder what sort of rose-tinted glasses they are wearing.


Let’s start with admitting the obvious – You’re Failing.


Now, this excludes places like Maitreya, *COCO* , DeLa, Redgrave, and others. They are established and likely doing quite well, even if there could be some minor tweaks to their approach. What we’re talking about here are the 97% of businesses that fall flat or end up burning the owners out trying to keep up.


Because, let’s face it – You aren’t Maitreya.


Unless you are, then totally disregard this post (PS: I love your work).





Maitreya Dakota Dress * Print Pack


Unless you get past that first admission, nothing else in this post will matter. For most, you’ll argue that you’ve been in business [insert number] years and you make a real world income, etc. But that is really a vague statement at best. Doing some math recently, somebody told me the above and stated they make about 10,000 L$ a week, and they (by observation) effectively are working all hours in a 24 hour period. There is no real down time involved.


Averaging out (to be nice) at 50 hours a week, it boils down to about $40.00 a week and that means assuming they earned the entirety (before paying the sim and other fees) they are making well under $1.00 per hour.


So the problem is clear, in that the biggest problem business owners have is that they have no appreciation of their own time.




There are two modes of thinking when running a business -


1. Either you are working for your business; or

2. The business is working for you.



This is the hardest thing to really get through our heads, but it is the single most important realization we can understand, because it is our first detail on why we are failing, and gives us a hint about how to reverse that.


We’re likely wired to believe that if we spend more hours working it equals better productivity and more money, and that is absolutely false. This isn’t an opinion, but proven fact that anything over 40 hours per week is a negative effect on productivity and outcome.


So for all the business owners in Second Life working ungodly hours in an attempt to be productive and profitable, you’re severely sabotaging yourself and your business. And that isn’t just your business efforts, but also your own health. It is no surprise that so many businesses fail in Second Life, and it’s the fault of the business owners more often than not.


Obviously, you need to stop acting like Captain Ahab.


Once you’ve understood this, we’ve now created a mandate for working no more than 40 hours per week, but I’m going to reduce that mandate to no more than 10 hours a week. Right now, you’re thinking:


“But if I don’t do it, then it won’t get done! I can’t afford to lose business!”


Which brings us to the second realization:


The most successful people work less than you and make far more money.


If you’ve never heard about the 4 Hour Work Week, you should look it up. Of course there are people who will say it’s a scam, but at the end of the day it’s sound business practice from the executive level. It’s not really about working 4 hours a week (though it’s certainly within reason) but instead it is about the one thing highly successful people know that you probably don’t.


A four hour work week involves intelligently working 150+ hours per week.


The reason successful business owners are successful is not because they work ungodly hours or constantly micromanage their employees. It’s because they have a chain of command and solid business policies in place whereby they spend less time doing everyone else’s job and instead effective time working on what they really should be focusing on (if anything). So they end up with a 4 hour effective work week, but the business collectively pulls 150+ hours or maybe 1,000 hours on its own and the productivity increase allows you to have free time and make more profit as a result.


Perfect Example: Warren Buffet. He’s so far up that workflow that he’s effectively doing nothing, enjoying his time, and once a year sends a letter to his companies telling them to keep up the good work. He is working a 0 hour workweek but effective 1 million hours a week or more. See how this works?


This 82 year old man is getting more done every minute than you will accomplish all year, and maybe even in your entire lifetime, and he’s not even working.





While you were reading this, the old man just worked 1 million hours.




It’s about being more effective. Not about doing more, but doing less but making the things that you do count. Knowing what you should be doing versus what others should be handling. Are you handling customer service, sales, marketing, human resources, filling in for DJs or Hosts when they don’t show up? If you’re doing everyone else’s job, then the question as the owner is “Why do they work there if they aren’t doing their job?”


The point of having people on your staff is so you aren’t doing the things you hired them to do. If you can’t afford to pay staff, then you shouldn’t be overextending yourself where you need them and you should be consolidating both the store/presence and your inflated ego.


There is a reason your boss at work makes more money than you, stupid. It isn’t because they are running around doing your job for you or constantly having to baby-sit the employees – but instead because they are at the top of the chain for a workflow that nearly (or wholly) manages itself. The more successful people get, you’ll find the less time they waste getting anything done. They have people to take care of the crap that they shouldn’t have to deal with, leaving them to focus on the things they actually should be bothered with handling.


Like whether you want to order a Mai-Tai or a Rum & Coke on the beach.



Miles from Ordinary_001




Here is the chain of command for a typical nightclub in SL:



You [Owner]


General Manager


Assistant Managers (Including HR)


DJ | Host | Dancers




And here is a general chain of command for a typical store:





General Manager


Assistant Managers (this includes HR)


Sales | Customer Service




The purpose of this being that the only person you should be dealing with is your General Manager. If your General Manager is not available, then Assistant Managers are who you deal with at most. You, as the owner, aren’t dealing with Sales, Customer Service, DJs, Hosts, or Dancers. You are dealing with creating and managing your product in the store and everyone else does their job and sells it and manages it. If you are running a nightclub, god have mercy on your soul – but the same premise follows.


If somebody in sales or customer service has a problem they can’t address, they go to the Assistant Manager on Duty. If the Assistant Manager cannot handle it, they escalate it to the General Manager and inform the customer or employee that they will get back to them on the issue (and make sure to get the information written down to contact them when they get an answer).


If the General Manager cannot handle the situation, it should be something high level and not within their means, then they bring it up to the Owner (You).


There is no such thing as going over people’s heads. That is a surefire way to get fired


I mean this in no uncertain terms. If you have employees going over people’s heads and trying to play favoritism for managers or you, they need to go. The only time they should go up the chain themselves is when their superior isn’t doing their job. So if Customer Service asks an Assistant Manager to resolve something, and the Assistant Manager doesn’t, then Customer Service would go to either another Assistant Manager, and barring that, to the General Manager, who is immediately going to want to know why the Assistant Managers didn’t handle it.


That better be a damned good answer, because somebody is very close to being fired for not doing their job, and breaking the workflow, which in turn endangers the business overall – like throwing a wrench in the clockwork.


They either play by the rules or they can let the door hit them in the ass on the way out of your sim. Do you think Warren Buffet gets a call in the middle of the night to come work in the mailroom because Timmy was a no-show?



Nothing Personal


Another of the biggest issues with running a business in SL is that people have a serious issue separating personal from business.


As a result, we start playing favorites and letting people get away with things we shouldn’t tolerate, all because they are our friend or partner. This is why the saying about not mixing business and pleasure comes to mind, because you end up more worried about not damaging a friendship or hurting people’s feelings than you are about running a good business.



Human Resources


In a lot of Human Resources departments, they make you take a personality profile test. This test isn’t a definitive or concrete understanding, but it gives the HR manager an idea of who you are and where you are best suited in the business. It also gives them an idea of who will likely work well together and who will clash.


Myer-Briggs|Jungian Personality Test






Whenever I’m tasked with straightening out a company and getting things in order, I always make it a point to have employees take this test and report the results back to HR. I want to know what I’m dealing with up front, and I want the employees in positions where they will excel.


For instance, an ISTJ or INTJ type of personality are perfect for high level management and making calculated decisions that are best for the company, while wholly not giving a damn about feelings. For them, they see the numbers and how to get there and being immune to emotional blackmail is a plus because they don’t really care about the drama or if employees broke up with their boyfriend/girlfriend and are having a rough time and turning up the water works. They care about keeping the business profitable and making sure it runs like a well oiled machine.


That being said, they suck at dealing with sales and customer service (for obvious reasons). They more or less lack appropriate empathy. So you find the employees who are ESFJ or something similar who thrive on empathy and are extroverted for those positions. It’s not set in stone, but it’s a damned good guideline to follow.


There is roughly a 3% chance of success in Second Life for your brand and business. You cannot afford to screw around and accept anything less than the best approaches. Otherwise you are wasting your time, money and effort on something you will inevitably fail at.





I think WyldStyles covered this pretty well, so definitely read her post (at the beginning) for those details. Generally put, your logo is likely horrible, brand image in shambles, and store presentation ridiculous. More often than not, you are using far more space than you need, which means you’re pretending to be big when you are small potatoes at best.






I can’t be bothered to get into further marketing details. Because really, that involves a social media campaign, actual logo design, and more… things I’m fully capable of but have better things to do with my time than dole out and enact detailed marketing strategies for people who think their brand and products are god’s gift to the grid.




There’s a lot more to this than I’m going to write up here in this post. For the sake of brevity and mostly because I normally get paid for this sort of consulting, we’ll leave it at the basic premise of 150+ hour work week.


This means it is highly likely that your “business” in Second Life is of little consequence and when facing a real business that is highly successful – the ego you have about your virtual brand and products makes you look like an idiot, and ultimately serves only to sabotage yourself and the business in the process.


Any day you wish to contest that, log out of Second Life and see if you’re still big stuff or a nobody.





  1. Good post Will, but expect some flack from people who don't like the reality bubble popped.

    I experimented a lot in Second Life with a variety of businesses. I always wanted to create something whether a spoken word literary venue, or novelty gift items that I built. (INSULTZ - Post Break Up Gift Ware). I never for one instant believed that any of them would launch me into a full time business. By 2009 it was clear that the enterprise users had already made bank, and were starting to leave in 2010.

    The gold rush was over for anyone to make money in there without effort.

    Throwing myself into a business in Second Life was a passion but not at the cost of my logic. I was very good at calculating my ROI for my time inworld. And when it failed to pay me for my time reasonably, I launched my freelance instead. I poured myself into that business in the fall of 2010 and was able to leave my job with the Government of Ontario in January of this year.

    I am now making more than I was at the College :) In four months. And the best part? I'm living the lifestyle I want. Commute has been replaced with dog walks and throwing the tennis ball for Dante. I am eating well, losing weight and feeling great.

    Where I feel grateful is for the incubator that Second Life was for me. I have always owned businesses and freelanced to a degree, but spending time in world with other enterprise users really pushed me forward into that. An incredible mentor and Executive from New York gave me a timely nudge and sage advice.

    In other words, I owe some of this to Second Life and I am grateful. Did I mention I met my future husband in there too? :) It gave me really good things. It gave me a wall to throw paint on and experiment with business ideas. It gave me support and mentorship from other business minds. Practice makes perfect... and when he's old enough my nephew will be there starting his business too. I believe in the value of it.

    Watching people get frustrated, stressed and over committed to their "lives" in the virtual world has always confused me. Why wouldn't you apply those talents to make $1000 extra per month elsewhere?

    There is social and there is business. When the two mix neither go particularly well and perhaps the people willing to work for $1 need to consider the true value of their time. The skills are transferable and they could be doing so much more ...

    Good post Will. :) Thought provoking.

    xo Lori

    1. Thank-you for the wonderful comment :) I think the biggest issue is that they really don't seem to grasp that they are working for a dollar an hour. There is a reality skew between hours vs income. That and they often don't take into consideration the cost of operations and paying staff *before* counting profit for themselves. In which case that number most of the time is minuscule.

  2. Will --

    When I started my company, I joined some business groups (which I highly, highly recommend to people) and one of the first books we always have new members read is The E-Myth Revisited (

    The problem you mention is common to all types of businesses. Very often, someone starts a business to, in effect, create a job for themselves, or to be their own boss. So a cook would open a restaurant, say. But owning a business, running a business, and working in a business are three different things.

    Ideally, you would start out by doing everything yourself, then set up standard processes, hire people to do those jobs, then hire people to manage those people, then finally step back and you have a self-sufficient business that runs without your input, and which you could sell to someone else, or just collect the profits while you go and start another business. Your involvement is limited to that of any big shareholder -- you keep an eye on the top management and if it goes off the rails, you replace them. You're the chairman of the board, not the CEO.

    But building a business is a very specialized skill that few people have, and it's rarely a skill that someone who, say, considers themselves a cook would have.

    So you have developers or designers starting virtual world businesses, and they spend very little time on marketing because it's not their core strength, and they can't hire good people to do those jobs not just because of a lack of money but because they wouldn't know how to identify a good marketer.

    And creating self-sustaining business processes is infinitely more difficult still.

    It doesn't help that, at times of stress, people revert back to their key strengths. So if a business is having trouble, the cook/owner will want to cook more, the designer/owner will want to design more, the developer/owner will want to write more code. Instead of addressing whatever problems the business actually has.

    1. I agree. The reason I say 10 hours in the sense of e-business is that it inevitably begins as a side affair and teaches you to let it grow in a healthy manner. Start small, stay hungry, and use no more time or resources than you actually need.

      Stay lean. And when you grow past the ten hours, the rule is to remain the same as you began, and understand that if you need more hours and operating under this premise to begin with, then you also should have the profit margin to afford that growth a well.

      Rinse, repeat.