ASK THE COACH
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Focus on "Critical inch" Is Key
By Dr. Ray Angelini
December 11, 2001
Dear Dr. Ray,
I am the owner of a small service-related business in the area, and recently I have been losing existing clients at a higher rate than usual. I am tempted to blame this downward trend on the sluggish economy, but my intuition tells me there is more to it. What aspects of my business would you recommend I examine to make sure that I am not losing business due to something that my staff or I are doing or not doing?
— S.S. in Gansevoort
I admire you for paying attention to your intuition. While it is true that many businesses are off due to the current recession, there are usually other factors that are also at work when business takes a sudden downturn. One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever heard regarding running a business came from Dr. Richard Carlson, the author of many books, including Don't Worry, Make Money.
Carlson speaks of the importance of spending the majority of your time on what he refers to as the "critical inch" of your business. He notes that one of the greatest mistakes business people make is that they spend too much time focusing on the wrong aspects of their business. It's incredible how business people can find the time to clean their desks, play on the computer and do countless other tasks that have little or no relevance to the performance and success of their business.
Carlson notes that this "critical inch" often changes over time. At present, the "critical inch" of your business appears to be how to generate new business while maintaining your existing client base. In six months, it is likely to be something else. It is important to take time on a regular basis to re-evaluate your priorities. You need to constantly make sure that you are spending the lion's share of your time creating success and abundance in your life. There's a popular old saying, "First things first." I have found that when you focus on what is truly important, the rest seems to fall into place.
Another key factor, also attributable to Carlson, is building up what he refers to as a large "trust fund." What Carlson is referring to here is not related to money, but rather to the trust of other people. Without the trust of other people, it is nearly impossible to create abundance in your life.
The way to build up a large trust fund is rather simple, but not easy. It requires that you be accountable for all your actions, both large and small. This means delivering on promises, being on time, and basically doing what you say you are going to do. Thus, the more accountable you are, the larger your "trust fund." The more irresponsible you are, the smaller the "trust fund." For example, there are people I know who will do what they say most of the time. However, there are others who almost always are not faithful to their commitments, either large or small.
The sad result of nonaccountability is that I have come to expect the people in the latter category to renege on their promises. Therefore, while I truly like these people, I don't necessarily trust them or take them seriously. In all likelihood, others won't either!
In summary, remember to always focus on the "critical inch" of your business and as much as possible, hold yourself accountable for both your words and actions. Granted, these are easier said than done, but the reward for achieving these ideals is great, and the penalty for not achieving them is even greater!