There’s one secret shared by the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve met.
Here’s what the most successful entrepreneurs do differently…
They repeatedly identify and remove bottlenecks. They focus 90% of their attention on just two things:
As a productivity coach, this was a rather embarrassing lesson for me to learn. Because I thought I was the solution to their productivity goals.
I thought if I could just get the business owner to be more productive with their own time, everything else would fall into place. They would be so overjoyed with my services that they would recommend me to all their friends.
Here’s what happened instead.
They patted me on the head and thanked me for helping them with a few things like optimizing their energy levels and systematizing their to-do lists. Then they gave me an education on next level productivity. They redirected my efforts toward helping them with their most important goal: Finding solutions to bottlenecks.
When I tell you they use “next level thinking,” about productivity, you probably underestimate just how “next level” it really is. So let me give you just a small taste of what I’m talking about with a real-life example.
I was sitting in a conference room with three glass walls overlooking the city of Austin, feeling intimidated by the caliber of businessmen in the room (one of them was arriving late in his private jet).
The topic on the table was how to hire the right people with the right talent to generate high-level advertising content. And here’s what blew me away.
The most successful entrepreneur in the room was a guy who you won’t find on any org chart. Because that’s part of his next level productivity method. He owns businesses. He doesn’t run them.
But more on that topic another day. Here’s what he said about the hiring problem.
“I understand why you want to keep expenses down for this cost center in your business. But here’s what I’ve had more success with. Turn your cost center into a profit center. Instead of trying to gradually build your talent pool while keeping costs low, I recommend you acquire a small content generation firm and then sell their services to your competitors. Why pay for this aspect of your business operation when it could be paying you?”
My first instinct was to laugh. But as I looked around the table, no one was chuckling, and I realized he was proposing a solution he believed in. Here’s the lesson I learned that day.
When possible, turn a cost center into a profit center. Instead of trying to squeeze more work out of your employees to get costs down, sell their services to other businesses who need the same job done. This is a form of leveraging excess capacity.
This example illustrates why the most successful entrepreneurs look for bottlenecks. They are opportunities in disguise.
You see, there’s a reason the most successful business owners get excited every time they discover a new bottleneck. Rather than trying to marginally improve productivity for the machines, employees, or cash flow at the bottleneck, they engage in next level thinking instead.
There’s a term for this at the lower levels of entrepreneurship. When trying to create businesses from scratch, you “entrepreneur it.” This means you create businesses or solve problems by rearranging existing resources in order to unlock value for your customers.
“Integration marketing,” is an example of rearranging existing resources to unlock value. Here’s what it means.
Imagine I need a lot of traffic to my website. I could gradually build an audience of subscribers to an email list or a social media channel. But there’s a much quicker method if I’m willing to “entrepreneur it.”
I could tap into the traffic of an existing business. I could provide their customers with a valuable piece of content, conveniently placed on the “thank you” page to be seen by their customers after a purchase.
Then I give the business owner a commission for any sale generated by one of the leads that came from their website’s thank you page. It was unused website real estate, repurposed to generate additional revenue. In the process, it creates the traffic I need. That’s entrepreneuring it.
Integration marketing is just one example of a solution to a bottleneck (too little time or cashflow to generate traffic to my website).
A bottleneck is nothing more than a limiting factor. It’s the one thing limiting your success. But if you become a bottleneck hunter, you’ll soon discover what happens next.
As soon as you alleviate one bottleneck, a bottleneck appears somewhere else.
It wasn’t a bottleneck before, but now that your capacity has increased in other areas of your business, there’s a new limiting factor.
Let’s go back to my website example. My integration marketing yields more traffic than I can handle. I find I no longer have enough product to ship to my customers on time.
My new bottleneck is production speed. Once again, my job is to zero in on the exact point in the production line where the speed of production is being limited.
It might be hard to believe today, but only a few years ago Tesla was faced with a bottleneck that threatened to destroy their whole business.
There’s a reason Elon Musk is a super entrepreneur. He realized his company would never be able to reach profitable scale unless they could manufacture Teslas faster. A quick analysis of the production process revealed that the batteries were the problem. It’s an issue he’s trying to make better and better all the time.
Tesla wasn’t able to manufacture their car batteries fast enough. That was their bottleneck in the Tesla car manufacturing process. It was both a production and shipping challenge. The answer? Elon started a partnership with Panasonic and went a step further asking Panasonic to make their batteries on site at Tesla.
Elon used his creative genius to solve the bottleneck of timing and availability to scale. Of course as it goes, a new threat was revealed after, with the rising costs of materials used to make batteries. Once that is solved, he’ll be back to the drawing board, designing a solution for whatever bottleneck emerges next.
This is your primary job as a business owner. Even if your primary goal is to improve the quality of service you deliver to your customers rather than scaling your business growth, solving bottlenecks gives you the breathing room to do everything better.
That’s why, as a productivity coach, I now focus on helping my clients to create space to do nothing but think. In particular, I helped them to develop the mindset and skillset for next level thinking. Because that unlocks next level leaps in productivity.
It’s difficult not to get swept up in the job of putting out fires all day as a business owner. That’s one of the main reasons smart business owners hire me as a coach.
It’s so easy to accidentally let your employees treat you like the catchall solution for any problem that doesn’t already have a process or system in place to solve it. You have to maintain the right mindset to push back against that tide of anti-productivity pressure.
That’s what I do best. I coach business owners on the inner game of productivity.
Yes, I help with all the other stuff too, because sometimes your energy or ability to focus really is the bottleneck. But when you’re ready, I’ll walk with you toward next level thinking.
Here’s your mission if you choose to accept it:
What’s the limiting factor that holds you back? How might it transform into an opportunity to launch you toward your next level of success?