Two Lists Every Business Owner Must Make

We’ve all felt it… Life seems to be spinning out of control. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it all. The desk is piled high with projects and work, all with urgent deadlines, all in various stages of completion. People you need to call, e-mails you need to respond to. Then there’s another pile of “need to do” and “should do” projects you really want to get started on, but when? Your plate is already overflowing, and you have a bunch of things you started but never really finished.

If this is how you feel often (or maybe every day), here’s an except from Jack Miller’s book Simply Success to consider:

To start getting control of your life as an entrepreneur and the head of a business, you must recognize that there are certain things that you really are responsible for and that few, if any others, can do. Those things (and believe me, there are very few of them) are what you really get paid for and that must be on your “need to do” list. Then, there are other things in the business that you want to be involved with because you enjoy them. They too go on the first list. But with these (the things you enjoy doing) you should be selective because if you spend too much time on them, they prevent you from doing those “need to do” tasks.

Remember, your job is simple: it’s to make your company successful. It’s not to be spent frittering away your time on things that really aren’t critical to that mission or on things that really can be done just as well by others.

A few years ago I interviewed Jack Miller, former CEO of Quill Corporation, an office supplies store he started from nothing and later sold to Staples for $685 million. Jack started the business in 1956 on a small loan of $2,000 from his father-in-law. All he had at the time was a desk, a chair and two phones. His first office was in the back room of his father’s poultry shop on the north side of Chicago (in the interview, he joked about how he had to explain to prospects what the constant clucking sound was in the background).

With very little money and no connections, resources or experience in retail, he built his client base through old-fashioned prospecting to build the business. When he finally built a book of business where he could invest in marketing, he revolutionized his industry by mailing out product catalogs to clients, becoming the first mail-order company in the United States. Because of their aggressive marketing, the company’s revenues skyrocketed, amounting to $180 million in the mid-1980s.

A few key things: First off, I hear a lot of small, start-up MSPs blame their lack of money as a reason why they can’t do marketing. This is nothing more than an excuse because MANY of the multibillion-dollar companies we now know were started by a dead-broke entrepreneur hitting the street and cold prospecting, just like Jack Miller. Fred Smith and FedEx. John Paul DeJoria and Paul Mitchell. Richard Branson and Virgin. Bill Gates and Microsoft. Cold prospecting is not ideal but is often necessary UNTIL you have sufficient funds to build marketing systems and teams to make it unnecessary.

Another excuse: “I don’t have time to do marketing.” Again, a foolish excuse. You’re confused. When you print “Owner” on your business card, your #1 job is to bring in clients profitably, like it or not. If you don’t like it, you’ll be far better off taking a job doing technical work so someone else can do that for you.

There is no “lack of time.” There is only a lack of motivation. And if you are truly that busy, you ought to be making enough profit to hire staff to shed the lower-income-producing activities you’re doing. If you have “no time” and you have no money, you’re failing. Cut out all the clients, projects and activities that aren’t profitable and START working diligently on activities that bring you clients who ARE.

When I read the above excerpt from Jack Miller’s book, I stopped, opened up the document where I have my goals outlined and made two lists:

  1. What are the most important things I must do to grow the business profitably (which is every CEO’s #1 job) that nobody else can do, and…
  2. What should I stop doing, or be delegating?

I strongly suggest you do the same – take stock of what you are spending your time on. I’ll make you a good-natured bet that you’re spending multiple hours a week on things that are of low importance or no importance, distractions, entertainment and sloth, while telling yourself you have “no time” for marketing, growing the business and acquiring new clients.

I would also bet you’re doing a lot of work you could outsource or delegate, but are being too cheap about it. As my friend Jack Daly says, “If you don’t have an admin, you ARE one.” Admins don’t make CEO-level salaries for a reason, and if you mire your day with low-money work, you’ll never get to the point of making the progress, profit and income worthy of a CEO.

Do you want more leads, more clients, more profits now but don’t know where to start? Click here and watch a quick video about the three biggest problems IT Service Businesses face and how to solve them.