My family. No, they’re not the reason I am writing about how to use the 80/20 Pareto Principle at work!
BUT, they’re the reason I built my business. Well actually, my kids weren’t born when I started my first business, but I started and grew businesses so that I could support my family.
They’re also one of the reasons I worked so hard for so many years.
There is some irony in this though.
When my friends were on vacation, taking time off, relaxing, and not checking email, I was the guy at the restaurant excusing myself for a few minutes to take a business call, getting up extra early before the family woke to tackle some work issues before the vacation day began, or dropping my family off at the restaurant and staying in the car for an extra 30 minutes to deal with some client-related issues.
I’m not proud to say that in my 27 years running a business, I never took a full day off without doing any work. Never. Not one. And that’s not healthy. Every vacation I ever took was, to some extent, a working vacation.
So where’s the irony?
I built my business to support my family so that I would have a better quality of life. But here I was, often stressed, working crazy hours, and regularly NOT spending time with my family.
Similarly, I have clients that come to me on the verge of burnout, moving in all directions, on a constant life roller coaster not entirely sure when or how to get off.
I was that guy.
So how do you build a successful business, support a family, and still have time so that you can actually relax on vacation?
It, unfortunately, wasn’t until much later in my business life that I began to realize that it wasn’t the number of hours that I spent working but the quality of hours when I was working.
So what do you do?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. That’s the rule that says 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.
For example, 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. Or 80% of your work results will come from 20% of your time.
The corollary of that also holds … 20% of your work results will take 80% of your time.
So does that mean that you can work 20% of the number of hours you’re currently working and expect to achieve 80% of the results?
Keep in mind, it’s not the time that you’re at your desk but the quality of the work you’re doing when you’re there. To achieve better results, you need to learn to become a super manager and delegator.
I met with a client recently who was frustrated by the number of hours he spent doing work he though his staff should be equipped to handle.
He was constantly bothered with staff at his door asking him to make otherwise mundane decisions.
I asked him what he did when a staff member came to him with a problem, and he said that he solved the problem for his staff.
What he should do is ask his staff the question, “How do you think this issue should be handled?”
If you keep making decisions for your staff and don’t let them make mistakes, you’re never going to get them to a point where you can work yourself out of the decision-making loop. Your business will only ever get as large, and you will only ever be as successful, as your ability to handle all of the minor issues throughout the day.
What do you do?
Focus on Your Strengths and Delegate Your Weaknesses
What are your strengths?
If it’s marketing, focus on that, and hire for sales and admin.
For any aspect of the job that you’re not amazing at, hire people who can do it better than you’re currently doing.
Train these people. Manage them. Motivate them. Treat them like gold.
Now repeat that process. Over and over and over again.
Building a strong team is one of the biggest challenges in business. Before you even begin, you need to understand the role you play in the business and where your strengths and weaknesses are.
Admitting your weakness is often a more difficult task then you’d think, which I’m still working on every day. I’m learning new ideas from books and podcasts, trying to understand my strengths—what I love, what I want to be doing more of, and (conversely) what I want to be doing less of.
Start building a team of competent people around you who are experts in their respective fields, and who you want to learn from. You don’t need to know more than they know. You just need to make sure that they’re motivated, want to learn, and love coming to work every day.
Now lead them, and get out of their way. And that’s how you use the 80/20 Pareto Principle to improve your efficiency at work.
By the way, The 80/20 Pareto principle at work is the third of the 3 business Ps that I subscribe to. The Peter Principle, Parkinson’s Law, and now Pareto. I’ve addressed all three in various blog posts.
If you want to read more about The Peter Principle, you can read this blog post: Watch out For Peter When You’re Growing Your Business or Rising the Corporate Ladder. Peter Can Kill Your Business If You’re Not Careful
And if you want to read more about Parkinson’s Law, you can find my Quora answer here: What is the secret to self-discipline, i.e., is it an issue of predisposition or a function of the degree to which one works at it?
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