Three Numbers That Are Making a Huge Difference

Here are three numbers that are making a big impact in my life and business right now.



In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” is needed to become world-class in any field.  Whether it was the Beatles playing 8-hour sets in Hamburg or Bill Gates programming on computers as a teenager, the greats were great, not just because of talent, because they worked hard.

Sure, you can oversimplify this rule. It doesn’t apply to sports and you can practice the wrong way, but the idea here is powerful.

Talent and skill are important, but so is putting in the hard work. The Beatles were born talented, but they also put in a lot of time and paid their dues.  If you’re going to get good at anything, it’s going to require a ton of practice.

In life and in business, I’m convinced we give up too fast. A culture that values fast has led us to believe we can succeed in a short amount of time.  So when things don’t go our way, we move on to something else.

But it’s usually those who stick it out, who commit to learn and grow through tough times, that make it.

If it’s really important, stay focused and put in your 10,000 hours.


In 1896, an Italian economist named Wilfredo Pareto noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

And the 80/20 Rule, also called the Pareto principle, was born.  It says 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Here’s what this looks like in real life:

  • 80% of the world’s wealth is controlled by 20% of it’s population
  • 80% of a sales come from 20% of your products.
  • 80% of the work is done by 20% of your team.
  • You really only wear 20% of your wardrobe.
  • You eat the same foods 80% of the time.
  • When hanging out, you spend 80% of your time with 20% of your friends.
  • 80% of your stress in life comes from 20% of your activities.
  • 20% of what you pack in your suitcase is essential for your travels.

The 80/20 Principle is really powerful and if you understand it, it can lead you to be more effective, successful or happy.  If you understand the 20% of your efforts that are leading to 80% of your results, you can intentionally put more of your efforts there.  Rather than spending most of your time on ineffective things, you can focus on the efforts that lead to the results.

  • You can get rid of 80% of your stuff and not experience a significant change in your lifestyle or happiness.
  • You can focus your time on the 20% of people in your life who bring you the most relational energy.
  • You can orient your business or your job around those tasks that produce the most results.

I want to 80/20 my life in a few areas and I bet you do too.  If you want to learn more about the 80/20 rule specifically applied to business growth, read Perry Marshalls book.


Not long ago, I read a book titled The One Thing by Gary Keller.  He writes about the power of focusing energy and efforts on the one thing that matters most.

Since all things are not equal, success comes from identifying the one thing that has the most potential and focusing an unfair amount of time and energy there.

“Your work life is divided into two distinct areas – what matters most and everything else.  You will have to take what matters to the extremes and be okay with what happens to the rest. Professional success requires it.,” he writes.

One is a powerful number and it’s something I try to think through on a regular basis.

  • What’s the one thing I need to do today no matter what?
  • What’s the on big task I want to accomplish this week?
  • What’s the one goal I want to accomplish this month or this quarter?

In our business, we have one number driving all our activities for this quarter.  Sure, there are some other things we would like to accomplish but they don’t matter nearly as much as the one thing.

In my role in our business, I have one key goal and desired outcome this quarter.  Even if I accomplish some other things, it won’t be good if I miss the mark on this one key priority.

The number one can bring you a lot of focus and clarity.  What’s the most important thing right now in your business or organization?  You can’t have three or four priorities – you can only have one.  Identify it and orient everything around it.  Say no to other things and don’t feel guilty about it.

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Use Real Words (not totes, awesomesauce, vacay or all the feels)


Maybe I’m just getting older because things are starting to annoy me.

Things like loud music, trendy fashions and the way people talk these days.  I’ve recently caught myself beginning a sentence with “If I was your age,” so take this with a grain of salt.

But we need to talk about words and sentences. A scan of my Twitter feed reveals a lot of sentences like this:

  • Hubby and I are going on vacay to get preggers.
  • This movie brings out all the feels.
  • This chicken salad is delish. #nomnom

This has become the language of twitter.  Nonsensical baby talk.

Call me a grammar grandpa if you want, but we can do better.

Is the word totally that much longer than totes? Do you not have the kind of time required to add two more letters and sound like a high school graduate?

You’re not going on a vacay…you’re going on a vacation.  Even Autocorrect knows there’s something wrong with vacay.  Granted, it thinks I mean vacuum, which is nearly as far away as you can get from vacation, but still.

Vacay is not a word.

All the feels is not a phrase.

Be jealous, not jelly.

Totes are handbags.

Words and phrases like this destroy the English language one tweet at a time.  But more importantly than that, using phrases like this make us all a little bit dumber.  You are not a toddler.  Use real words.

With five seconds of thought, you could come up with a much better “word” than “nom nom” to describe food.  If you say things like “all the feels” and “totes” you’re going to look back and think you were dumber than you really were.

There are a lot of great words in the English language.

Use real ones.

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Three Key Questions to Help You Understand Your Customer

I used to think you could simply create something great and people would find it and buy it.

Sadly, it no longer works that way.  Maybe it never did.

Selling is hard.

If you really want to sell a product, service, resource, course or just about anything, you’ve got to truly understand your target customer. You’ve got to get inside their head and figure out what they really want.


Here are three questions I’m asking myself as I continue learning about my target customer and offer relevant products to them.

Question #1: What’s their pain?

I can’t stand the dentist.  I would honestly take a fastball to the head.  When I go in for a cleaning, my opening sentence is “I just want you to know I hate you and all you stand for.”

But the other day, I went to the dentist.  Not because I wanted to, but because I had a toothache.  I was in pain.

I didn’t really care what it cost and I didn’t want to know how they would treat the problem.  I just wanted the pain gone.

Customers are all like that to some degree.  They have a pain and they want it solved.  If you can do it, great.  But if not, then your marketing or your website or your offer don’t really matter.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of creating products that existed in my mind but weren’t real problems for my customers.  Or they were just small pains.

Mosquito-bite problems are just annoyances and it’s hard to sell solutions there.  What you’re looking for are the shark-bite problems. Is your product a solution to a shark-bite sized problem or a mosquito-bite sized annoyance?  Tweet that.

How do you uncover their pain? You ask. Surveys and phone calls are two options. Surveys are a good starting point, but you truly want to understand your customer and their pain, pick up the phone and talk to them.  Over the last few months, I’ve been doing this and it’s amazing what I’m learning.

What are the results they will experience with you? 

Product creators tend to think about what their product will do. Customers think about what the product will do for them.  And that’s a big difference.

You see, people don’t really care about your product or service and what it does.  They are about their results.  They don’t want to know specs and features; they want to know if it will work for them.

Michael Hyatt has a fantastic product called Platform University.  It’s a membership program designed to help people build their platforms so they can offer their products and services to the world.  I’m a member and I can attest to the quality.

Here’s how Michael describes the benefits of Platform University.

When you join, you’ll get…

  • The inspiration you need to keep going when you want to quit
  • Access to world-renown platform masters, who are experts in their respective fields
  • Proven strategies and resources, so you don’t have to figure out everything on your own
  • The opportunity to view content that’s relevant to you – at your own pace, the way you want
  • Insights, ideas, and support from a community of people who “get” what you do
  • Quick feedback to your ideas and questions

Do you see how the language in that list of benefits is customer-centric and gets at the results?  Even the description of the program is couched in benefit language. Hyatt knows people don’t care about what’s included in the membership program as much as they care about what the program will do for their platform.

You can’t afford to be product-centric; you’ve got to be customer-centric.  Because people don’t care about your product, they care about results. It’s exactly like Belle Cooper writes on the Buffer Blog: People don’t buy products; They buy better versions of themselves.


What’s at stake if they don’t take action?

As a public speaker, one of the most important things you can do at the beginning of any talk is tell people what’s at stake if they don’t listen.  Why is your message important? What will happen if they don’t do something?  This approach is kind of like communicating the anti-benefits.

It’s true for public speakers, but it’s also so important for anyone with something to sell.  Your message and your marketing needs to lay out a compelling case to act now, people need to know what will happen if they don’t work with you.

I’ve been a part of several product launches – some have gone well and some were awful.  There’s no silver bullet or secret formula, but one common denominator to launches that didn’t work well as expected was there was no compelling reason to act now.

People rarely do something now if they know they can do it later. If you’re selling something, you don’t want to hear “I’ll do it later.” You and I both know that later never arrives. If you miss the moment, you’ll likely miss out on that customer because they are unlikely to return.

Your call to action needs a sense of urgency. You need to let people know why they need to act NOW and what’s at stake if they don’t.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Donald Miller about Story Brand.  I’ve heard from so many people about how awesome this event is and it’s been on my radar for some time.  I’ve wanted to attend for a few months now but the schedule never aligned perfectly.  So you know what I thought?  I thought to myself, “I’m going to do this one day….I’m going to do this later.”

Then an email arrived that told me what was at stake if I didn’t act now. The price was more than doubling in just a few months. That created a sense of urgency.

When you’re trying to step into the mind of your ideal customer, ask yourself these questions.

  • How can we compel them to act now?
  • Can we use a deadline or a bonus to inspire action?
  • What’s going to happen if they let your offer pass by?
  • What’s at stake if they DON’T work with you?

So those are three questions that help me understand the mindset of our target customer.  I hope this helps you do the same.

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Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t [Book Notes]


Here are my notes from Scaling Up (Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0).

Four Keys to Scaling Your Business

  1.  Attract and keep the right people
  2.  Create a truly differentiated strategy
  3.  Driving flawless execution
  4.  Having plenty of cash to weather the storms

It took Starbucks 20 years to perfect its business model and reach 100 locations.  Today, it’s got more than 18,000 stores in 62 countries and more than 150,000 employees.

Everything should deb made as simple as possible, bot not simpler. – Albert Einstein.

Get it down, then get it right.

Stick to the business and markets you know best.

Expanding from three to four people grows the team by 33% but increases complexity by 400%.

Leaders don’t have to be years ahead; sometimes minutes are enough.


The job of the leaders it make sure the right people are doing the right things.

Every accounting statement needs a WHO column.  Numbers without responsible people are dangerous.

All people should agree on the four to nine key processes in the organization.

Even smart people (doctors) need checklists.  In one hospital, a checklist prevented 43 infections and 8 deaths, while saving $2 million in costs (The Checklist Manifesto)

An “A Player” is someone in the top 10% of available talent who is willing to accept your offer.  Every job needs a scorecard – a description of the outcome you want from job responsibilities.

Your value and culture should act like an immune system, spitting out people who don’t align.

Your team is playing chess (pieces move differently based on unique strengths) not checkers (pieces all move the same)

You are not going to find great employees on job websites.  Create a recruitment strategy.

One great person replaces three good people.

Paying people less than what their worth or in line with some compensation strategy ensures mediocrity.

Nothing is more frustrating to an A player than having to work with B and C players who drain their energy.

Think of your org chart and title as “direct supports” rather than “direct reports.”

The only way to grow a company is people first.  Spend 2-3% of your payroll on development.


Core Values are the rules and boundaries that define the company’s culture and personality, and provide a final “should/shouldn’t” test for all the behaviors and decisions by everyone in the firm.

If you are less than five years old, your values are being formed.

You don’t create core values, you discover them.  Anchor them in culture with a story.  Everyday reinforcement is the most important step.

The leader’s job is to make strategic decisions, but it’s wise to recruit several people to help navigate.

7 Parts to the Strategic Plan

  1.  Words you own. Keywords will help you defend your niche, simplify execution, and turn your revenue into huge profit.
  1.  Sandbox and brand promises.  Where are your customers?  What are you really selling them?  What ar your three brand promises?  What do you measure?
  1.  Guarantee.
  1.  One phrase strategy.  IKEA is flat pack furniture.  Apple is closed architecture.
  1.  Differentiating Activities (3-5 Hows) Your differentiators can’t be done cheaply or quickly or else they would be easy to copy.
  1.  X Factor. (The 10x Advantage).  Outback provides huge bonuses for managers that stay long term and hit milestones.
  1.  Profit per X and BHAG.


Break your BHAG down into a 90-day focus.  Choose a quarterly theme to rally everyone around what’s most important right now.

What’s the single most important thing going on in our business in the next 90 days that we want everyone to be aligned on?

Everything needs a number – a determined outcome that is tracked by a key performance indicator.  If you’re not measuring it, it’s not going to get done.

Have a start/stop/keep conversation:

  • What should we start doing?
  • What should we stop doing?
  • What should we keep doing?

Every member of the team needs to be able to answer objectively: “Did I have a great day or week?”

Put your metrics, goals and plans up big and visible in a place where meetings happen.

What’s the one critical number you need to measure?

The MEETING RHYTHM is the heartbeat of the organization. Like Jazz, which is improvisational, a great company must master the underlying discipline to allow for excellence.

Meetings with an agenda and a purpose actually save time.

  1.  Daily Huddle.  5-15 minute meeting to discuss tactical issues and provide updates.  Saves needless email exchanges. Answer these questions: “What’s up today?” “What could prevent me from having a great day?”
  1.  Weekly Meeting.  60-90 minute discussion to review progress on the quarterly priorities and tap brainpower on one or two main topics.  Keeps priorities top of mind.   Start by sharing good news, then review priorities and discuss gaps in progress.  Spend the majority of the time on one or two topics.
  1.  Monthly Management Meeting.  Half-day to Full-day meeting to learn and collaborate and address one or two big issues requiring several hours of effort.
  1.  Quarterly and Annual Planning meetings.  One to Three-Day off-site to establish the next quarterly or annual theme.  Set the strategic direction for the year and beyond.


Stop saying, “Well, this is just the way it is in our industry.”

Review a DAILY report of available cash and a note on why it changed in the last 24 hours.

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Five Ways We Use Infusionsoft

When we decided to start a company to provide insanely practical resources to move the church forward, I knew we needed to use InfusionSoft to power the business.

We use Basecamp, Evernote, Google Apps and a few other tools (whole list here), but InfusionSoft is like the engine in the car.  Here’s how we use the all-in-one sales and marketing software in real life. 

  • List Building. Michael Hyatt says, “I have literally built a multi-million dollar business on the strength of my email list.  90% of my income comes from it.  Even today, my list is still my number one business priority – and asset.” Whether your business exists online or you’re a brick and mortar shop in a small town, you should build an email list.   That’s why we set list building as our top priority.  Nobody really wants to join another mailing list. But pastors and church leaders are finding a ton of value through our helpful giveaways and weekly newsletter.  Each time someone downloads a freebie from our landing pages (like this one), we use InfusionSoft to automatically deliver it and offer even more help on the same topic.
  • Shopping Cart.  InfusionSoft powers our order forms and handles each transaction.  When people purchase a digital product, InfusionSoft sends the delivery email.  We also schedule follow up emails to help people implement what they purchased. Since every purchaser is tagged with a product-specific tag, InfusionSoft makes it easy to reach out to customers and make sure they have what they need, see how the product is working, or ask for a testimonial.
  • Communication. Most people join our mailing list because they ask for a giveaway.  And each giveaway or download is tied to a unique follow-up campaign. But when that campaign is over, we apply a #nurture tag so they continue to receive helpful broadcast emails.  That means once someone has moved through our planned communication, we can still communicate with them when we have something new to offer.  Most times, we segment the list based on activity or tags, but every once in a while, we send one message to our entire list.
  • Ad Tracking. By connecting some financial data, we can measure the ROI of a specific giveaway, Facebook promotion or ad buy.  Figuring our our customer acquisition costs and our lifetime customer value start with Infusionsoft. These are key numbers for us to track and they give us a picture of how the business is really doing.  Just to keep it real, one of our paid email advertisements led to a negative 94% return.  While I’m not happy about it, I’m glad I know that number.  Most people wasting money on ads don’t know they are wasting money.
  • Lead Scoring.  This is one of my favorite features, because it tells us who the best leads are inside our system.  All contacts are not the same, and Lead Scoring factors in click activity to tell us what leads are hot.  The more people click on links in our emails, the higher their lead score.  If it reaches a certain point, we can send a note or a gift.

Those are five ways we’re using InfusionSoft at Church Fuel. I’m a big believer in the software, but even more than that, I love the company and their heart to help small businesses succeed.

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