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7 Essential Secrets to Build a Business That Work- Part 1 of 3

Over the next 3 weeks I will be sharing with you 7 Essential Secrets to building a business that works…

Works for who?

Works for you, sometimes the least focused on person(s) in a business. You do not need to be a slave to your business. With focused, intentional design your business nightmare can be transformed into a dream.

These “secrets” individually are not really that secret. However, few businesses put these elements together as a collective whole, and that is a secret.

This week I am going to write about Secret #1 and Secret #2.

Let us get started…

Secret #1 – Vision

The Problem here is most people start building a business without any vision.

They just start making it up and wonder why at the end of it what they have is not working (for them).

In other words, it does not give them the things they went into business for in the first place.

What is it that people go into business for in the first place?

What we have discovered is that most people go into business to have freedom, financial independence, control of their destiny, and peace of mind.

Yet, is that what you think most businesspeople end up with?

Not really, right?

A Vision gives you the direction you are going in.

A Vision needs to be created in a way that has these elements:

  • Time frame (usually 3 years).
  • Description of your niche and the services you provide that niche.
  • Has a strong emotional wording that inspires you every time you say it or even think about it. It gets you out of bed in the morning.
  • Lastly, it has a dollar figure in it.

For example, if we decided right now to go on a road trip together and did not discuss where, when, and how we are going to get there (and we do not know where we are going anyway)– how far do you think we will get?

Or where do you think we would end up?

It is ludicrous to even imagine what that would be like, isn’t it?

The same if we were going to build a house and just grab some tools, and start building and hope that when it is all done, we have a beautiful, safe home to live in.

Again, we all know how absurd that is, and yet that is exactly what people do when they start a business. They have some vague sense of what they want, and the industry they are in, and they just start acting.

Why do you think in business that we approach things like that?

It is because we do not know that a business has a design (or needs to have a design) in the same way that a house does.

In fact, it is a bit worse than that! It goes like this – most people think that because they are good at the technical aspects of their trade, or profession or craft that means they are automatically good at that kind of business.

The problem is that a business operates along distinct design elements separate from the work of the business. For example, Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds never knew how to (or did not ever) serve one single hamburger.

His vision was a system that could be replicated repeatedly. This is what I mean by an elegantly designed business.

Secret #2 – There Are Only 4 Ways to Grow Your Business

If we were to start a brainstorming session and write down on white boards each way, we could think to grow a business how many distinct ways do you think we could produce?

If we had enough time, we could list hundreds if not thousands of different ideas and strategies to grow a business, yes?

Well, the problem is, it gets so overwhelming, with so many ideas and we have no way of knowing or measuring the actual cost and leverage of each way!

Where do you begin? How do you know what will work?

Well, the answer is – and this is great news – there are only 4 ways to grow your business!

And each idea we would have listed above will fit inside one of these 4 ways to grow.

We all intuitively know what they are!

Let me share with you…

Way Number 1 – Increase The Number of Customers of The Type You Want

Way Number 2 – Increase The Number of Times Your Customers Do Business with You

Way Number 3 – Increase The Amount of Money They Spend with You in Each Transaction

Way Number 4 – Increase The Efficiency and Effectiveness of Each Process in Your Business

And the exciting part of this way of thinking with the 4 Ways to Grow is that we can measure the impact on your profits for each way, and discover which way is the most leveraged.

Here is a simple way to break this down…

How Are the 4 Ways Measured?

Your total sales are composed of the first 3 ways to grow your business.

Your total customers X the number of times they buy from you on average X the average sale per transaction = your total sales.

When you work at increasing (even in small increments) all 3 ways at once, the compounding effect can be extraordinary.

To measure way number 4, you take your total expenses and divided it by the number of transactions to give you the cost per transaction.

When you lower the cost per transaction without sacrificing quality, service, or on-time delivery, you will be more efficient.

This is way number 4.

Thank you for reading…

A Simple Technique to Create Prodigious Productivity in Your Work

I love simple things. How about you?

Design may be complex in its underlying dimensions. Yet when it has that look and feel of simple elegance it comes across like poetry in motion…

When it comes to being more effective in my business, I am an advocate of intense blocks of focussed time.

Multi-tasking diminishes productivity. Using yourself as a testing ground try it out one day. Schedule nothing. Take on nine tasks for the day. Jump from one to the other. Get them all revved up at once and have nine multiple tasks to focus on at once.

The truth is that multi-tasking is a myth because you can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Someone may move from one task to another at lightning speed, yet it is still just.one.thing.at.a.time.

Even a juggler with four balls in the air is only juggling one ball at a time.

My Past Habit

I learned many years ago to focus on only one thing at a time. I list three main things each day to do. Three of the most important things.

Then I schedule three ninety-minute blocks of time that I called Power Blocks.

It has worked for me. The problem I have found as I looked at my actual habits is that is too long a block! And multiple distractions can impinge on those boundaries.

I recently learned a new technique called…

The Pomodoro Technique

Again, this is ridiculously simple…

So stupidly simple that you might overlook its elegance.

It is the brainchild of a man named Francesco Cirillo who developed this technique in the 1980s while a student in Italy.

He needed to focus on his studies one evening and was struggling. He took a tomato shaped timer (Pomodoro is tomato in Italian) from the kitchen and set it for 10 minutes. His hyper focus resulted in astounding results.

Here is the technique in modified form:

  1. Select one task to work on
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work until the timer rings.
  4. When the timer rings, take a five-minute break.
  5. Repeat
  6. After every 3 or 4 Pomodoros, take a 15-minute break.
How This Applies in Business

Ask yourself when your highest most natural productive energies emerge.

Are you a morning person, or afternoon person, or evening person?

Schedule your Pomodoros (cool word, isn’t it?) during your most productive time.

Eliminate all distractions. Turn off your notifications on your phone and computer. Do not look at emails.

Get focused on your one task.

Adapt it to Your Own Needs

Some parts of your day cannot (and should not be tightly scheduled). You may need to have open blocks of time to be available to react to specific problems that come up.

The beauty of the 25-minute block with a Pomodoro is that anyone can find one 25-minute block of time in the day!

Today I used the Pomodoro technique to get a report done for a Charity that I had been avoiding.

I went past the 25-minute block because I was almost done at the end of twenty-five minutes!

Frankly, I was shocked that I could get that much done in this brief time block.

Apply This to Business Meetings

A lot of business meetings go on far too long. Try setting a meeting for 25 minutes. Set a tight, achievable agenda.

If you need more time, you can take a 5-minute breaks and add twenty-five minutes.

It may seem odd, yet I will assert that I believe you will accomplish more in two 25-minute blocks than inside of one 60-minute block.

Also, the strange timing of twenty-five minutes versus thirty or sixty minutes will put people on alert that everyone needs to focus to get things done.

In Closing

I used the Pomodoro technique for this blog, and it took just one Pomodoro plus an extra 3 minutes!

To read more about this elegant technique, please click here:


Thank you for reading…

Focus on Habits Versus Goals for Your Business Success

In the beginning of every New Year, most people set goals. By February – now – they are usually forgotten.

On the other hand, habits create results.

Even micro-habits (more on this later) can completely transform your business, and your life.

For years I have been using a life-changing software app on my phone called Loop Habit Tracker. (This is an Android app, and, sadly, I do not think that it is available in the iPhone Store).

How Does Habit Tracker Work?

It is super simple, yet do not let that fool you. Simple is better for habits. Complex means you will rarely do it, or inconsistently do it.

First, you create a habit in the app.

It can be a “yes” or “no” type habit, or it can be a measurable habit.

A “yes or no” type habit is simply did I do it, “yes,” or did I fail to do it, “no.”

An example is “did I exercise?” Yes, or, no?

A measurable habit is, for example, how many kilometers did I walk today? And you track your daily results from zero to the number you walked.

Simple, yes?

Does This Really Work? Come on!

I have some habits I am tracking that I have not missed a single day in years!

It took time to develop consistency and what motivates me is the visual disappointment in seeing unchecked habits.

Habits are activities that you do, and what you do consistently over time will create the desired results.

When a person creates big goals, they can have this short-term adrenal rush of imagining the massive results that will emerge from these BIG goals.

Perhaps your goal is to get super fit in six months, so you tell yourself you will do a 90-minute intense workout every day.

Then, as usually happens, life gets in the way. You cannot find ninety minutes every day, especially on busy days. Or sick days.

On the other hand, when you start small you create the habit first! Then you add a wee bit more. See how that goes. Then a wee bit more. Soon you are habitually doing what you wanted to in the beginning.

And here is another thing to think about. The habit is much greater than short-term bursts. For instance, I read the other day that moderate exercise is healthier than intense workouts.

Consistency trumps short-term blasts.

The Secret Ingredient Is…

The key to success with habits is this – start small.

Even tiny. So tiny it seems, well, even ridiculous.

It is like Kaizen, the Japanese technique in manufacturing of constant and never-ending improvement.

Small, daily movements towards excellence creates long term results in a more measured, stressless, consistent fashion.

I recently read about a woman who now does one hundred push-ups every single day.

In the beginning of her habit creation, how many do you think she did?

Five. Just five. From there she added more and now does one hundred each day.

How Many Habits Should You Track?

This is a great question. I am glad you asked…

I only track ten.

I chose them this way:

  1. Do I do the habit anyway? Is it already ingrained and does not need documenting? I do not need to be reminded to brush my teeth as an example!
  2. Is it important to me? Will this ingrained habit change my life? An example is daily workouts. I have not missed a day in years.
Should I Stop Tracking This Habit Once It Is Engrained?

I do not stop if the habit is that important to me. For example, I know that if I stop tracking my workout, I will not do it daily. I will make excuses on busy days.

How Does This Apply in Business?

Here are the key questions to ask yourself…

  1. Will this habit transform my results? In other words, will this habit, done daily, over time create remarkable results for my business?
  2. What do I procrastinate on that is profoundly important for business success?
  3. Is this activity “important, yet not urgent”? Think of activities that if you do not do, nothing bad will happen in the short-term. An example would be making outbound calls. You may not lose any of your current business, yet long-term your growth might be stagnant.


To start, only track 3-4 habits. Make sure to pick the most critically important activities in your business.

Here are some simple examples to help you get started:

  1. One call to one Team Member per day
  2. One call to one client each week
  3. Block 90 minutes of focused time for systems work three times a week.
  4. Write a blog weekly.
In Conclusion

To dive deeper into the impact of micro-habits and how life changing they can be, please read this blog:


Thank you for reading…







The System is Your Business

A few years ago, I wrote the following blog on systems. I am re-printing it as it is even more relevant now, in 2024.

Without systems, there is no consistency, no duplication, and no training. The customers get different results from different people and at various times. It is impossible to grow because without systems there is no duplication.

Organize around business functions, not people. Build systems within each business function. Let systems run the business and people run the systems. People come and go but the systems remain constant.” – Michael Gerber

Semi-Organized Chaos

Without systems in a business, you have semi-organized chaos. I have found in my work with hundreds of small businesses that it is the lack of systems that causes business failure more than any other factor. Lack of systems lead to other problems that are often identified as the problem when they are really the symptom. For instance, people often say poor finances led to the early death of that business. Or operational problems, or poor marketing. Lack of great systems is at the root of it all. (Of course, you still need a viable business model – selling snow skis in Morocco will not be a winner).

Some people hate the word “systems.” They want to be free. Free to create. Free to “go with the flow.” Freedom to “let their people figure things out on their own.” And, when things go wrong, they complain that “it’s so hard to find great people.”

Sports as Metaphor for Business

Sports is a fabulous metaphor for business – sporting games run on rules, systems, extensive training, and key metrics – just like a winning business does.

The other day, I read this funny story of what it was like for Nicky Gumbel refereeing a boy’s cricket game in England:

“I remember, years ago, a football match that had been arranged involving twenty-two young boys (including one of my sons, aged eight at the time). A friend of mine, Andy, was going to referee. Unfortunately, by 2.30 pm he had not turned up. The boys could wait no longer.

I was press-ganged into being the substitute referee. But I had no whistle, there were no markings for the boundaries of the pitch, and I did not know the rules as well as some of the boys.

The game soon descended into complete chaos. Some shouted that the ball was in. Others said that it was out. I was not at all sure, so I let things run. Then the fouls started. Some cried, ‘Foul.’ Others said, ‘No foul.’ I did not know who was right. So, I let them play on. Then people began to get hurt. By the time Andy arrived, there were three boys lying ‘injured’ on the ground and all the rest were shouting, mainly at me!

But the moment Andy arrived, he blew his whistle, arranged the teams, told them where the boundaries were and had them under complete control. The boys then enjoyed a great game of football.

Were the boys freer without the rules, or were they in fact less free? Without any effective authority, they could do exactly what they wanted. But people were confused and hurt. They much preferred it when the game was played according to the rules. Then they were free to enjoy the game. The rules of football are not designed to take away the fun of the game. They are designed to enable the game to be enjoyed to the full.”

So many businesses are just like this – semi-organized chaos. No rules, no systems, no order. Just people trying to figure out (each in their own way) how to get things done.

No Systems Make People Sick

In sports, as in the example above, people get physically hurt without boundaries. Do they get hurt in business with no boundaries?

Yes, they do. From added stress, sickness from over-work, anxiety. In-fighting. Blaming people instead of the system.

Without systems, everyone must make it up. Here is a simple example in my own business. I am a real stickler for the details in providing awesome service to our clients. As a virtual business we communicate a lot with emails. Without any Performance Standards (read, systems) each person just adds their own “style.”

Freedom of expression, right? Perhaps…

Our Email System

In our email system we sprinkle “softeners” throughout the email to inject tone in a toneless, flat form of communicating. Words like, “kindly,” as in “would you kindly confirm whether 3pm, Friday works for a quick call…”, “good morning/afternoon/evening”, “thank you”, “I was wondering if you would mind…”.

We do not use abbreviations. Have you ever got an email with a 3-letter abbreviation that you have no idea what they mean? I have…

We do not use loads of “happy faces” – yet one per email acts as a softener.

If I were to remove the names from a few emails in our company, you would have a tough time figuring out who wrote it.

This provides a consistent level of showing we care through that medium. It is a system, complete with Performance Standards.

What Should You Systematize in Your Business?

Start with the things that matter most to your customers and your Team. Think of your Team as a well-oiled machine as in a sports franchise. Give your “players” all the tools, training, coaching they need to perform as the stars they are.

Never blame a person, always blame a “system,” or lack of systems.

And, with great systems, you now have a means to counsel people out of your business, if they refuse to play by your “rules of the game.” Without systems you will never know if people just needed boundaries and training to excel.

People want to naturally do good and excel. They just make it up as best they can. Then bad owners blame them because they did not do it “their way.”

If you want duplication and consistency, give people a system to follow.

If I have a system, doesn’t that mean my people will become bored robots?

If you think that, let me ask you a question – did Wayne Gretsky, arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, operate inside of strict boundaries and rules as a hockey player? And did he display creativity and amazing capabilities inside of these rules?

People excel inside of rules, standards, systems, boundaries, not outside them. It is what makes a country work, a sports game, a community group, and it is what will make your business really soar!

Thanks for reading….