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Growing Your Business

The Key to a Better Business AND a Better Life

It's the ultimate dream! Owning your own business, being your own boss, making lots of money. It's why you decided to start your own small business. But...

by Bill Zipp

Bill Zipp Photo Consider these facts from 'How to Make Big Money in Your Own Small Business,' by Jeffrey Fox:

  1. Small business today represents 99% of all employers in America
  2. Small business today generates 80% of all new jobs annually
  3. Two-thirds of the top 5% of taxpayers are small business owners averaging $400,000 of income per year.

That's a lot of money! For the majority who start a small business, however, the dream becomes a nightmare. According to the Wall Street Journal there were 572,900 small business births in 2004 and 554,800 deaths, a business mortality rate of 97%.

The human cost of this statistic is even more staggering: families, friends, personal savings, and even physical health. I regularly meet with business leaders who have not had a vacation in years and can't remember the last time they took a day off. I've been told many times, in moments of brutal honesty, "If I keep working like this it will kill me!"

If this is where you seem to be heading, there is hope. I believe with all my heart you can succeed wildly at what you do AND experience a satisfying personal life. I have clients who enjoy that reality every day.

Traditional Time Management Doesn't Work Anymore

The fact is, traditional time management doesn't work anymore. Traditional time management says, "Do you have 10 things to do today? I can show you how to do 15. Do you have 15 things to do today? I can show you how to do 20."

But the stark reality of business today is that we have 30, 40, and even 50 things to do every single day that simply cannot get done through greater efficiency.

Returning from a typical day out of the office, today's small business owners have over one hundred emails to read, scores of voice mail messages to answer, and a series of appointments in the calendar made electronically without their consent (curiously called "invitations").

With this explosion of things to do we must make choices, hard choices, about the way we spend our time. Success in today's' tidal wave of 24/7/365 living demands that we separate the important from the urgent and do only that which matters most.

In short, you need greater focus, NOT greater efficiency.

Focus, Not Efficiency, is the Key to Better Business Results

"Concentration -- that is, the courage to impose what really matters most and comes first -- is the business leader's only hope of mastering time and events instead of being their whipping boy," wrote leadership expert Peter Drucker over 40 years ago in his business classic 'The Effective Executive.' This kind of courage is needed even more so today! Focusing on what matters most, both personally and professionally, is what gives us calm in the middle of a storm of activity.

Focusing on what matters most, rigorously and relentlessly, sets the highest priorities for each and every day and determines the most important steps of action needed to fulfill them.

Focusing on what matters most refuses to live on the adrenaline rush that urgency gives us and does what is best for our self, our family, and our business.

Four Questions to Help You Find Your Focus

Here are four questions to help you apply greater focus to your personal and professional life:

1. What are my top 4-6 personal and professional priorities? You don't get more than six! Most business leaders I work with land on 1-2 personal priorities and 3-4 professional priorities.

2. What are the 1-2 most important steps of action I can take to act on these priorities each and every week? These are not the only things you do during the week, but they are the most important things THAT GET DONE NO MATTER WHAT.

3. How can I put these 10-12 top priority steps of action in my calendar so that they are protected and uninterrupted? If you had an important doctor's appointment for Tuesday at 3:00 PM, how would you make sure you got there? Treat these 10-12 steps of action–that's just 2-3 items a day–like a doctor's appointment.

4. What things am I doing during the week that are NOT my top priorities and should NOT be done? Drucker again observes, "I have yet to see an executive, regardless of rank or station who could not consign a quarter of the demands on his time to the wastepaper basket without anybody's noticing their disappearance."

A Powerful Success Story at IBM

Louis V. Gerstner was appointed CEO of IBM on April 1, 1993. At the time, IBM stock had plunged to $12.73 a share. However, when Gerstner left the company eight years later, Big Blue's was trading at $120.96. It was the greatest turnaround in business history. Gerstner tells his story in the brilliant book, 'Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?'

Central to Gernster's success was an epiphany he had a year into the job. One of his senior leaders came to him and said, "Over the weekend, I counted them up, there are about two dozen things that you want me to wake up in the morning and focus on. I can't do it. I'm not that good. What do you really want people to do?"

These words stunned Gerstner: What do you really want people to do? Not 10 things, certainly not 24 things. Gerstner landed on three and these three revolutionized IBM. That is the power of focus.

If it can turn around a company with 300,000 employees, it can certainly do the same for your sweeping and related maintenance business. (And your life!)

About the Author:
Bill Zipp is a seasoned small business specialist. Bill has spent thousands of hours working with hundreds of business leaders across the country, and his proven program, The Business Fitness™ System, provides a step-by-step plan for building a strong, self-sustaining small business. For a FREE Special Report, The 3 Biggest Killers of Small Businesses Today (And What YOU Can Do About Them!) visit You may reach Zipp via email sent to

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