If you’ve been riding along on this outsourcing journey with me, then I’m sure you’re coming to grips with your to-do list—I know, you always had your suspicions that you have a lot on your plate, but once its all there in black and white, right in front of you, the length of it can be quite a shock! But our goal is to put that list into perspective with some helpful strategies, and to watch that list shrink in size through outsourcing.
In fact, I was shocked the other day when I looked at my to-do list and discovered how small it currently is. No, Colin didn’t schedule a week-long vacation with the kids and forget to include me, nor did Check Off Your List have one of those gone fishin’ signs up on our virtual storefront, aka, our website, I don’t know. We’re completely virtual, but you get the idea. I still very much have the responsibilities of family and work. I’m still a wife and a mom who prioritizes time with her husband and home schooling her children. I’m still the CEO of a fast growing multi-six-figure company. I also have those other things that are essential to who I am like acting in Columbus theatre and film projects or volunteering at my church. And, it’s pretty obvious I’m still busy recording this podcast in hopes of encouraging you with little nuggets of good advice in your ear.
The point, which I think and I hope I’m getting across – and is the awesome thing about outsourcing – is you [emphasis] don’t have to do everything to successfully make all of the areas of your life a reality. You may have heard of the book, The 80/20 Principle, and the other 80/20 books by Richard Koch. To summarize Koch’s lesson, there is only about 20% of what you do that you are truly best at. Did you catch that? 20%. That’s not a large number when I think of how busy and hustle driven many of us in today’s culture are. The remaining 80% can be better done by someone else, however, most of us power through and insist on doing that 80% when the 20% gives us the majority of our results, when the 20% is the most rewarding and enriching. I know, 20% isn’t much. Is it?
What if you could fill your entire day with the 20%? You would function within the most gratifying tasks in your to do list. You wouldn’t need to hustle for 12 hour in a day to accomplish as much each day. And when you outsource the other 80% of tasks to people who claim those tasks as part of their 20%, you start to see the exponential growth possibilities, which result in success for your business.
Actually, it’s quite simple. Just focus on the stuff you do well and you’re passionate about, the stuff that makes you feel you’re living your best life and giving yourself the best avenue to success—it’s so obvious, yet it’s so far from what many people do that you’d think it’s a huge secret. Well, if it is a secret there’s no more excuse, because I’m letting you in on it.
Here’s another secret: Richard Koch didn’t even come up with the 80/20 rule himself, yet he’s an excellent writer and communicator, and he applies the 80/20 rule to his own life by focusing his attention on what he does best—that’s right, communicating. He’s communicated through the many books he’s written and through podcasts. As a result, a principle that he didn’t even come up with is now popularized and, quite frankly, monetized… because he focused on his 20%.
We all started our business to make money, so let’s embrace that, follow Richard Koch’s example, and monetize our 20%. In this episode, we’re going to look at the various ways different types of business owners use the 80/20 rule. Business owners of several different types of business who obviously all face their own specific challenges, require solutions for unique needs, and have their individual goals all rely on the 80/20 rule. though I’m going to be bold enough to flip it around. I hope Richard Koch doesn’t mind. I’m going to call it the 20/80 rule, because for all of these business owners one of the most important goals is maximining that 20%, which means for all of them the 80% can be outsourced and essentially forgotten.
One of my first clients as I began my journey in helping people outsource was a professional baseball player who moved to the business world as a real estate investor revolutionizing low income housing. The list of things we did for him was vast and quite random. It was not uncommon to receive a call saying, I just bought a truck. Get everything in order for it. We’d then wrap up any of the details at the dealership regarding title, payments, then add it to the appropriate insurance policy, you get the idea. We made sure all the utilities and routine payments for his various properties were paid on time, because all this stuff was merely a waste of his attention – his 80%. We booked flights for last minute trips by his family. All of these things allowed him to focus on his 20% – low income housing.
Another client was what I like to call a serial entrepreneur. This one was a retired football player who owned or invested in several businesses. His 20% was supporting minority businesses and giving people the boost they need to make their dreams a reality. Coordinating the logistics of all those ventures was the 80% – obtaining necessary licenses, establishing LLCs, setting up a budget, and monitoring expenses to ensure return on his investment. Fortunate for him, all that legwork to guarantee his success as an investor and serial entrepreneur was our 20%. Everyone wins.
Now, just so you don’t think outsourcing and the 20/80 rule is only for retired athletes, I’ll mention another client, a mortgage broker who owns his own business. So he can focus on his 20%, which is mainly developing his client relationships through answering questions and processing loans, we managed his social media, bought his gifts—usually business related but not always– and dealt with his day to day, stuff like marketing emails, team support, referrals, etc. To put it simply, anyone on the outside looking in would think this client of ours has the best memory ever and foregoes nights of sleep to ensure all his clients and referral partners feel like the most important people in the world. In reality, we handled that 80% of his business, so he doesn’t have to do it and he can focus on the 20% that only he can do as a licensed mortgage broker can do.
Yeah, these three clients have different priorities and different areas where their time and energy are best spent, yet they share some things in common. The first is that they say yes to the 20% – the things they are passionate about in life, the things that create the most impact in their business.
The second is they are all living their best lives because they have figured out they can’t do it all; they realize that their success and happiness is in part from focusing on the right things and not everything. So why do we try to get the same results with a different strategy? We need to hone in on what we’re passionate about and good at – the 20%, and by outsourcing the unimportant things, we can live several lives in one, so to speak.
There are many people who are any one of the things I do. Remember my list of responsibilities at the beginning? Wife, Mom, CEO, Actor, and Podcaster. Each one can be a full time job were I to do it all myself. Instead, I spend less time on the things that bog me down about each of those ‘lives’ so that I can jam pack my day with all [emphasis] the things I’m truly passionate about.
I’m not going to re-hash the details of how I accomplish all these things and the specific steps for outsourcing the 80% today, because I feel we’ve covered that quite well so far. In Episode 5: How to Find what You’re Good at and Do It, I share in detail how to figure out your 20% and how to do more of it. If you remember, I discuss questions to help you pinpoint where you’re most effective then explore the way I modified the Eisenhower Matrix to help me prioritize what is urgent and important, and then I dive into some real life things I outsource in case you’re overwhelmed and unsure where to start. Feel free to go back and listen to Episode 5 for more on all that, but wait until this episode is over.
I’m no venture capitalist like Richard Koch, but like him, I’m a believer in the 20/80 rule as a helpful strategy to improve your life and business by improving your use of time. Sure, you can always go read the self help books, and I recommend you do so. Although, I know that’s my guilty pleasure not everyone’s. So if you’re more interested in improving your impact in your business than expanding the breadth of your knowledge on the myriad of approaches to business self-help, you’ll get all you need right here on this podcast. The goal is to maximize your time by devoting yourself to the most impactful 20% to achieve the greatest results in your business – really any area of your life – with the least amount of your time. It sounds obvious, right? Yet why are most business owners not following this formula?
The UPS Store did a survey that determined almost 70% of small business owners see value in working with other businesses. In my mind, that’s an awesome statistic, right? Positive love for outsourcing at its best. They also found, only a staggering 25% actually took action and have that support; even though, 45% of small business owners said they want that kind of reliable help and 52% said they have merely connected with such a resource but haven’t taken advantage of it.
I find this problem without a solution distressing. Only 25% of businesses owners have the support they need. In our terms, that means only a small fraction of businesses owners outsource their 80%. I’m not saying that pinpointing then finding a solution to outsource the 80% is always going to be easy, but I’m fairly confident that the first step toward a solution and being able to devote your time and energy to that 20% is simply saying no.
If you’re a restaurant owner like my dad was for many years, you might not have the easy option, you might have to deal with the humdrum of washing dishes to keep your business moving even if your passion is working the magic of a smooth-running kitchen preparing several dishes at once—and I have nothing against restaurant owners. My Dad is the best man I know. But I’m speaking here to taking a larger step as business owners, to looking at a long term scaled business, and taking the necessary steps to get there. You have that option. The first step, again, is saying no.
If we return for a second to my client the serial entrepreneur: I frequently see him say no to opportunities and people. It’s not that the people didn’t have a good idea or that it wasn’t a good opportunity. It’s not that they weren’t wonderful people. It’s because those opportunities didn’t meet his long term goals and align with the overall trajectory for his life. Saying no to good things can be difficult, but saying yes to good things that aren’t in your 20% distract you from the good things that are [emphasis] in your 20%. So, saying no to good things can be a simple first step to keeping your day within your 20%.
An unknown benefit of staying in your 20% is the energy to do it all. When you’re excited to tackle your day, you have a greater capacity for more both mentally and physically. There’s joy from merely going through your day, because you’re passionate about every aspect of what you do and it energizes you as a result.
Another effect of saying no to certain things and outsourcing other things is the resources to make choices as your business thrives. By having the right people consistently doing the right things in my business – everyone functioning in their 20% – results in the best possible outcome. The definition of success is different for each person and business, but you could experience growth that you haven’t seen in your business before. At Check Off Your List, we’ve had around a 30-40% increase in sales year over year for 4 years straight due to strategic use of a qualified team of people – outsourcing. Couple growth like this with extra time in your day to focus on intentional things for your business and dare I say, even interests outside your business – instead of hustling every day all day long in your business – the opportunities seem limitless, don’t they?
Ok. I realize I’m selling outsourcing pretty strong at the moment. And while I’m tempted to apologize, I’m going to refrain and encourage you skeptics to call my bluff. Surround yourself with a team of support and see what happens. In a few months or a year from now, my bet is that you’ll never want to go back. Maybe you’re listening to what I’m saying and you’re coming around to the idea of outsourcing. That being said, what about those lingering objections and questions lurking in the back of your mind?
Perhaps one of the biggest is that you actually enjoy working. I come from a family of workaholics, so I get it. The amount of time you work as a business owner is not even a big deal, and you’re willing to deal with it. Perhaps you frequently yell out at parties that you would choose work 100 hours a week if it means not working 40 for somebody else: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard this attitude espoused, maybe you’re even its biggest advocate. This attitude is part and parcel of the hustle mindset, which I’ll discuss in depth in the next episode. For now, just trust me as a recovering workaholic, when I say this is not the way to maximize your business or to live your best life.
Perhaps taking the leap of hiring someone is scary, because you are now responsible for the income of another person and you must have resources to pay for that investment in your business. As an introduction, I recommend a Virtual Assistant. The right VA will have the unique skills you need and can be available at the number of ours your business requires while scaling as your business grows. The best part? Your time can be devoted to revenue producing activities, which means a VA should more than pay for themselves. For more info about VAs, go back and listen to Episode 3: What in the World is A Virtual Assistant. It explains the various type of Virtual Assistants and can help you determine what is the right fit for your business. If you feel like hiring a Virtual Assistant could be an option for you, I know just the right business, Check Off Your List. Whatever solution you pick – Check Off Your List or another option – you make the right choice by seeking help. Just make sure they are qualified, proven, and experienced in the areas you need, which leads me to another objection.
Another objection is only you know the path to perfection for your business. One of the ways you will be able to say no to the 80% is by saying no to perfection. For me, an area where I intentionally incorporate the 20/80 rule is letting go of expectations and perfection. Perfect can be the enemy of done in the workplace and certainly destroys the ability to effectively outsource. As a recovering perfectionist, I’lI admit it. Just like everyone else, I’m a work in progress. Outsourcing stretches me daily. My “perfect” isn’t someone else’s perfect. And you know what? That’s a good thing. When outsourcing effectively, their perfect should be a better perfect, because they’re the expert. You need to be satisfied with 80% perfect from your perspective and trust the professional with the 20%, because that difference is their expertise. To be completely free of your 80% that bogs you down, find the person whose 20% is what you’re outsourcing. Then give them the freedom to do their thing and devote your mental energy on your 20%.
Ok, so you’re almost there, almost ready to say no to the 80% and to fully embrace the 20%. I do want to remind you that it’s not an exact science. You might find the numbers to be 70/30 in one area and 60/40 in another and 80/20 in some. Whatever the exact number, the idea is to focus your energy on what provides the most impact in your business, what brings you the most satisfaction in your day, and what brings you joy as you check things off your list.
To briefly explore one other aspect of the 20/80 rule, I challenge you to evaluate your business activities as a whole. As you’re going through this outsourcing journey, it’s time to clean house in your business. What 20% of your activity is generating 80% of your profit? Obviously, the numbers won’t match exactly, but I think you get what I mean. What 20% of marketing brings in the majority of your sales? Do more of that as you outsource. What 20% of your services or products generate the 80% of your annual sales? Promote more of that as you outsource.
I never met anyone who doesn’t want more time in their day. For me this is enough proof to say that there are very few people who wouldn’t benefit from applying the 20/80 principle in some form to their lives. For business owners, especially, achieving this goal means optimizing what you do, but it also means being mindful of what you take on. Everything you add to your life takes away from something else. To maintain balance, you must let something go for everything you add. This is not a one and done type of thing. The 20/80 rule is a way of life. As your business grows, your role evolves, and your 20% changes. New things in your business occupy your time, so the only way to survive growth is to routinely evaluate and outsource the 80% – the stuff you’re not best at – to ensure your focus is on the top 20%.
As you personally incorporate the 80/20 rule – or the 20/80 rule as I’ve repeatedly called it- then apply it to the various aspects of your business, the temptation to accomplish more and more is alluring as you see outsourcing result in success in your business and increased capacity to add more to your to do list. I have to warn you though, our inclination to hustle is a dangerous slope towards an unrealistic yet sensationalized lifestyle that Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, calls hustle porn. In the next episode, I explore how we’re ingrained to work hard by our role models — in my case my parents and grandparents – and through our culture at large. You’ve heard “we can rest when we’re dead.” Right? There are dangers associated with viewing hustle as a badge of honor, and we are taught by society to valorize this honor, but is it really what we should be valuing and is the payoff worth the price? Subscribe so you can learn the answer to these questions in the next episode, when we discuss Hustle Porn, on Checking Off Your List with me, Rachel Luther.