The One Thing You Must Do

An Indianapolis man ran a valet service parking cars for fancy restaurants. The business was profitable, but its growth potential was limited. To boost profits, he offered to clean and detail cars while their owners dined, but stiff competition in the auto-detailing sector constricted growth here, too.

Then the man was asked to clean a plane, and he noticed that the private-plane cleaning business offered little competition and great growth potential. He quickly switched gears and now has a thriving business cleaning planes at airports around the world. His company even cleaned Air Force One.

The man uncovered this opportunity because he wasn’t satisfied with modest success. His goal was huge growth, and he kept searching for new opportunities until he achieved it.

All small-business owners who hope to make it big need to stop targeting 10% growth and start targeting 10-times growth instead. Setting ultra-aggressive goals might seem unrealistic, but it actually is the most practical option. When business owners target relatively modest growth, their brains look for ways to do what they already are doing, only a little better. They conclude that they just need to work a little harder or a little longer—which is the path to burnout, not success. By instead targeting 1,000% (10-times) growth, they force their brains to search outside of what they currently are doing for completely new opportunities. It isn’t possible to achieve 10-times growth by just working harder.

Here are three key ways to achieve 10-times growth…


Most entrepreneurs are rugged individualist types who think that they alone must make all the decisions and perform all the important tasks for their businesses. When they hire employees, they tend to view them as support staff for their personal efforts. But it usually is impossible to grow a business to 10 times its current size with just one person tackling all the key roles.

Better: Consider what your unique abilities are and what you truly enjoy doing, then hire teammates, not support staff, to do everything else.

To hire great employees…

Hire candidates who are passionate about your business. To identify true passion, mention and praise a book that you consider crucial to your business philosophy or goals during your initial interview with a promising candidate. Then ask questions about this book during a subsequent interview. A candidate who has true passion for your business should have read the book after you mentioned it.

Hire team players. It isn’t easy to identify teamwork skills during job interviews, because candidates are on their best behavior. But once someone joins your company, it soon will become apparent whether he/she works well with others. Let go of employees who are self-centered or dishonest.

Hire employees who embrace change. Mention a new idea that you’re considering to potential hires during job interviews—something very different from the way things normally are done, perhaps the idea of using a new system or technology. A good candidate will seem energized by the idea of trying something different, not apprehensive.

Hire help for design and/or marketing. New businesses need to get noticed and look professional—but marketing, logo creation and product-packaging design are not areas of strength for many entrepreneurs. Consider making a marketing pro one of your first hires. And use websites such as and to obtain high-quality graphic design help for as little as $300 per project, compared with thousands of dollars or more.


It’s no secret that treating existing ­clients well can be good for business. Happy customers are loyal customers, and they sometimes refer new clients. But to achieve 10-times growth, an ­entrepreneur often must make the difficult decision not to lavish extensive attention on every client. Each hour you devote to one client is an hour you can’t devote to another. Dividing up your time evenly may not be the wisest ­solution.

Better: While you serve your clients, also analyze them. If your business is like most, approximately 80% of your clients will never grow significantly larger than they are now…will never provide you with significantly more business than they currently do…and will never refer profitable new clients to you. Your goal is to identify the other 20%—the clients most likely to feed your growth—then lavish most of your time and attention on them. Wow them time and again, even if that means you don’t always have time to wow your other clients.

When you’re considering which of your clients fall into this crucial 20%, consider not just their size and growth potential but also how well-connected they are in the business community.

Example: An intellectual-property attorney in Silicon Valley gave his most promising small, high-tech clients the sort of high-end patent-protection assistance that young companies usually can’t afford. Some of these young clients became very big, successful companies—one of them was Facebook. The attor­ney now is in huge demand—and the shares of the young tech companies he received as part of his compensation have earned him a fortune.


Don’t work more to grow your business—work less.

Entrepreneurs often pour virtually every waking hour into their businesses. But working nonstop eventually wears them down. Mental fatigue leads to uncreative thinking, and a lack of creativity means death for entrepreneurs.

Better: Learn a lesson from entertainers and athletes. These professionals typically divide their time between performance days, when they must be on their game…preparation days, which are devoted to rehearsing or practicing…and free days, when they don’t work at all. Each of these days can play a crucial role in success—if handled properly.

Free days should be completely and truly free. Don’t even answer e-mails, take business calls or fret about work for the entire day. Don’t feel guilty. You’re not slacking off—you’re giving your mind the downtime it requires. You also are giving your family the time it needs with you. Ignoring your spouse and children can lead to family problems that undermine an entrepreneur’s ability to focus on business.

Preparation days, or what I call “Buffer Days,” are for meetings, interviewing potential employees, organizing the office and doing the other backstage stuff necessary to keep a business running. Dedicating certain days to this prevents these tasks from distracting your focus on performance days.

Focus days are performance days—doing only what makes money for you. Any distractions should be set aside for the next preparation day.

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