Transcript of How to Focus on High-Value Work
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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is David Finkel. He’s the founder and CEO of Maui Mastermind, and he’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today. The Freedom Formula: How to Succeed in Business Without Sacrificing Your Family, Health, or Life. So welcome David.
David Finkel: Oh John, a pleasure to be back here on the show.
John Jantsch: So there’s been a lot of work lately that I’ve covered, that a lot of authors who have covered, about this idea that that clearly working harder and longer isn’t the answer. Is that a way to maybe sum up the thesis behind the freedom formula?
David Finkel: It sure is, and I’ll give a different metaphor for it. I think we operate in the world in two different economies. There’s one economy, we call it the time and effort economy, and in a time and effort economy, we think we’re getting paid for hours, effort, and attitude, right? If it was a Hollywood movie, we would probably choose Rocky as its poster child. And we say, “Well, hey, he became heavyweight champion.” And I would just say to somebody who’s thinking about that, number one, that was Hollywood in the 1970s, but number two, there’s got to be a better way to succeed in business, whether it’s your own company, or you’re key executive somewhere else, than just absorbing hours and hours and hours of punishing time and commitment for a career to have that.
David Finkel: So then there’s the other economy that operates behind the scenes. We call this the value economy, and in the value economy we’re getting paid for results. And everyone says, “Oh, I get this.” It becomes almost a cliche in our culture that I should work smart, not hard. But the reality is most people don’t know how to operationalize that, how to actually do that in the face of 100 plus emails a day, probably four different app feeds, text feeds and other things that they’re dealing with. The world has just changed. I mean, it’s so easy to work from anywhere at any time, and the expectations around that have been such that we haven’t updated the way that we design how we run our day, week, quarter, and company to accommodate that so that we actually behave in the value economy. Because most people … Most people say, “Of course I should be in the value economy.” But we don’t realize how we ourselves live in the time and effort economy, or even worse, we push our staff to subtly behave in that time and effort way.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think it certainly, as I listened to you, and I know we’re going to unpack this, it really has to be an intentional thing too because, man, there are a lot of time stealers out there that, as you said, it sort of can unconsciously … The day goes by and you, you come home, and my spouse asks me, “So what happened good today?” Well, I don’t know, but I sure was busy. I think that that’s a trap, isn’t it?
David Finkel: It absolutely is. It’s funny. So in chapter two of the book, we have this quiz in there for the 10 time stealers. We had done this originally about four years ago at a large conference we had, we had business owners and key executives answer. On average, these 10 things were taking up 18 hours or more of their week. 900 hours of their work life every year was going to things that were creating almost no value for their company. When they added up those hours each week, and I had to multiply that by 48 assuming they were taking four weeks off, they were floored. Here’s what became even worse, John, when I said, “Okay, now do you think your staff [inaudible] as well, or better than you, or the same?” Most people said about the same or worse, which means it’s not just their 900 hours, but the 900 hours of their five people on their leadership team each. And they were horrified when they did the math on that,
John Jantsch: We only have so many days, or I’m sorry, so much time. Well, I guess we have so many days, but we only have so much time in the day. And so I’ve been a big proponent of this idea of focusing on your highest pay-off work if you’ve only got so many hours a day. But how do you advise people … Because I know you agree with that idea, but how do you advise people to figure out what is their highest pay-off work?
David Finkel: Yeah. The first step is to actually do that in writing. And so, I mean, I guess I’ve made a career out of not just telling people what to do, but being that anal retentive person that’s always said, “Well, here’s mechanically how you go about doing it.” So we’ve created what we call the time value matrix. This idea that Pareto’s principle just doesn’t go far enough. The 80/20 rule is phenomenal, 20% of what I do gives me 80% of the result, but I need to take that further. Well, then what’s 20% of the 20% going to get me? And we call that 20% of the 20% B time, and then 20% of that 20% of the 20% is A time.
David Finkel: So as we look through and we play this through, there are 4% items that we do, we call this the sweet spot things, that generate huge valleys, 60, 65% of the value for the week. And there’s a magic 1%, if you actually work the math, it’s 0.8%, but we round it up that creates half the value. So I start by asking, “Well, what is it on the payroll that just I’m there to do?” And so I gave an example from the book for my company, so I run a business coaching company. So the three things that I do that create the highest value, number one, are large scale promotional places where I can be a spokesperson for the company to bring in large numbers of people, and that could be from a interviews like this, that could be from the syndicated column I do for ink.com, that could be from a keynote at a large industry conference of our target market. That’s one thing that I do that creates tremendous value.
David Finkel: Another thing that I do that creates tremendous value would be developing my leadership team and managing them for accountability. So those are just some quick examples. What I know doesn’t create lots of value are doing things, like for me directly, any more coaching. I’ve got a great coaching staff that does that coaching. For me, that’s what I would call C time. It’s valuable. I can bill for it at a fairly high rate, but it’s limited for what I do. And, I’ll give the example with an attorney, most attorneys think, “Oh, what am I on the payroll to do? To produce law services.” Well, actually that’s just billable work.
David Finkel: Billable work is never more than that that 20% time value. We call that C time. But perhaps if I could focus on what can I do that brings in lots more work in the business, or like one of the law firms I talk about in the book, there’s this guy Marvin who runs a successful boutique law firm, and for him, making decisions about where he should set his fee structure, which he had been so busy doing actual legal work that he had never done before, and really thought about, looked at what his competitors do and he’s like, “Well, hey, I charge 600 an hour for my time. I’m at the high end.” I challenged him, I said, “Marvin, but your paralegals and your legal secretaries you’re billing 30, 40, 50% below your competitors.” And when we looked at that, it took him about two hours to make the decision, get the information, make the decision, John.
David Finkel: With that one decision there, he probably made a quarter of a million dollars more profit just by increasing his mid-level pricing for his paralegals and legal secretaries. And his clients were thrilled with it because more of the work was now incentivized to staff down so that rather than paying him 600, I could pay one of his six legal secretaries or paralegals that he worked with and I could do that at 195 and he just now had more capacity to get more work out the door, and he was more incentivized to do that because he made a fairly good spread on their work. So that’s an example of this value economy, about how do I identify in writing, and it’s almost never … My highest value work is almost never the production of my main product or service. That’s almost never the highest value of my timescale.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think … I work with a lot of smaller organizations and the founder typically sells the work, does a lot of the work is seen as the mentor for the client a lot of times. And even when they start adding staff, I think it’s really hard for them to let go of that work, but I think they really … I think they, in some, ways devalue their relationship or their ability to advise a client, because the client sees them not only … Like in my world, not only as the marketing strategist, but also as the person that fixes their blog post. And if you’re doing both of those, regardless of what you’re charging for it, you’re probably devaluing how your clients sees what you bring to them.
David Finkel: That’s a great point you make.
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John Jantsch: So one of the things that I … I was working with an organization on kind of marketing strategy and a lot of times we have quarterly planning sessions to try and say, “Okay, what’s next?” And invariably you get the team together and 19 objectives come out of that meeting because you know, everybody’s got their thing, and I know you’re a big proponent of the idea that you can only have a couple. So how do we get people to think in terms of fewer better?
David Finkel: Absolutely. I’ll go back to that example of those 19 different things that you have. What this becomes like, the analogy I’ll share is I start all these home improvement projects in my house, but I finish none of them. So not only does it absorb my time, but it’s made a mess of the house and nothing is actually better from it. Instead, what we would tell a client, and what the freedom formula chapter three goes into, is this idea of how can I turn my plan for every quarter into a one page plan of action, with no more than three focus areas for the discretionary time? Three top priorities max. It’s okay to even have one or two. And by defining these out, “Hey, for this focus area this quarter, here’s what I call my criteria of success for it. And then now I’m going to create my action steps in milestones.”
David Finkel: What it does, John, is it gives me a visual tool to hold myself and the rest of my team accountable to be focusing our best resources of time and attention on those fewer things that make a bigger difference. One of the things I would almost always tell some to look at is, well, what’s the single biggest limiting factor in your business or in your department right now that you’re dealing with? The one constraint more than anything else that holds you back from the results that you want? And some people might say, “Oh, I need more leads coming in the door.” Others might say, “I need more operational capacity.” Some people might say, “There’s a certain key hire I don’t have.” Great. Well that quarter, one of your top three focus areas is going to be solving, or at least making better, pushing back, that one limiting factor.
David Finkel: Then on that same subject there, people say, “Well, I have an action plan.” And I say, “Oh, great, show it to me.” Oh, it’s not in writing. Okay, well then you don’t have an action plan. And then those that show me the action plan, John, invariably it’s like seven or 17 pages long. And I laugh. I ask one question that really puts it into a new light. How often do you look at this action plan? And they look at me and go … Yeah, they don’t. They don’t. Once a year. So one page plan you can keep right there by the side of your desk, pull it out each week to look at what do I need to get done from this plan this week? And it just changes everything. It’s so easy. So simple. One page.
John Jantsch: So in your previous work, and you’ve been on my show before when we’ve talked about some of your previous works, it’s been very leader or founder-focused. And in this book you really go into the fact that systems and team and culture and all those things … And building leaders in internally are all the things that are, that are really going to set you free. I mean, ultimately if you’re going to go beyond where you are today. So I guess kind of paint the picture. What’s the freedom formula when it comes to involving the team?
David Finkel: That’s right. So the common denominator we heard from a lot of people who read earlier books that I’d written was, this is fantastic, but … And here came the common but. But I wish you had something for my staff, but I wish you had something that applied to me. I’m not the owner, I run the department, or I manage a team of six people. And that really stayed with me for a while, even though our core business is working with owners of small and mid cap companies. I finally sat myself down, it took probably almost two years to write this book, which is much longer than it typically takes me to write a book, and found a way to find a voice to say, “Hey, this is the book, not just for the owner but for key executives.” And matter of fact, some of the people that I worked with to do this book, to validate the ideas, were fortune 50 companies.
David Finkel: I started working with some of the VPs and executive VPS and division leaders for various large name brand companies. I can’t mention names because part of that was signing nondisclosures on that, but it was really interesting to me to watch. I’d seen this work for companies of 100,000, a million, 10 million, 100 million, but I hadn’t had the opportunity prior to this project to be working with companies that were in the 10, 50, 100 billion dollar companies. It was really fun to do.
David Finkel: Also what struck me about this was the same challenges that we’re dealing with at $1 million or $10 million or $100,000 or $50 million, they’re still dealing with when you just add the word billion versus million. It’s the same stuff that they’re dealing with. How do I balance work with life? How do I get my team and myself to focus my best time on those things that matter most in the face of all these other demands, in the face of my own desire to have control, in the face of conflicting priorities and messages that I’m hearing. How do I do this practically behaviorally, in the marketplace? What do I need to do first? What I need to do second? And that’s why I wrote the book. And so this book would be for anyone, whether they’re the owner, self-employed professional, an executive, or someone who aspires to be.
John Jantsch: One of the sections, and I think it’s in the team accelerators, or the accelerators under the team, and it’s become a pretty popular topic of late, I think, is this idea that that really leadership today or raising your team up is about coaching more than maybe the traditional leadership models. So you want to unpack what coaching looks like if I’m a department head?
David Finkel: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, I come from a background that all the companies that I’ve owned for the last 25 years have been coaching companies. We’ve coached 50,000 or more people over that time for all the various companies. So we’ve learned something about coaching. The difference is that most people think about, “I’m going to manage.” Well, when I manage, I’m looking to work with somebody to make sure I organize, coordinate to get a certain result. When I’m coaching though, I’m developing a team so that not only do I get a result that moment, but I’m going to be increasing our capability to get more results, more autonomously over time. So, for example, one of the key coaching responsibilities I have is to ask myself, “Am I coaching this person for development, or am I coaching this person for a result?”
David Finkel: Let’s say I’m working with Joe, I might say Joe’s not one of the people that I’m looking to grow. So I’m going to coach him for the result. But Sheila, you know what? I’m coaching her for development, which means I’m not going to tell Sheila what to do. I’m going to ask her more questions that are open-ended. I’m going to follow back up with Sheila and challenge her thinking, helping her get to the conclusion, versus if I have a team member who’s been with me for a while but really is never going to be capable or shown the interest of growing, I’m going to be more directive with him or her. Hey, this is how I want you to do it. Versus with Sheila, I’m going to help her get to the right answer so that next year she is more capable of solving all of those same challenges without me having to be there, and now I can work with her on the next level of development.
John Jantsch: I think it’s a like parenting, isn’t it, David? That you can tell a kid, “Here, go do that.” Or you can let them make decisions for themselves and let them figure things out on their own, and sure that’s going to take more time, but we all know the investment’s worth it, isn’t it?
David Finkel: That’s right. And so just me as positing as a leader, just saying, “Am I coaching this person for development, or am I coaching this person for the immediate result?” Helps me. And here’s one more simple one that helps me, John. I ask, “Where is this person on this function, on the spectrum of scale of capability.” If one to 10 says 10 is they know it cold, they could do this in their sleep, and a one if they’ve never seen this challenge, this responsibility, just by pausing and asking where they stand on a one to 10 changes how I lead them. If there’re two or three, I deal with them very differently than if they’re an eight, nine or a 10. Yet most of us never pause to ask that question, and as a result, some of our staff feel we micromanage, and other of our staff feel like we don’t give them enough support, we just advocate. And we can easily solve that.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think one of the things that should give some incentive to leaders who micromanage is that people just get used to it, and then they expect it. So then they don’t initiate, they wait for you to tell them what to do and give them the answers. And boy, if you can let go of that, all of a sudden, you’re going to bring a lot of innovation into your organization.
David Finkel: Absolutely. And that’s why they’re working 70, 80 hours, because they’re doing their job in the midst of doing three other people’s jobs at the same time.
John Jantsch: Yeah. Yeah. So another big accelerator is a positive culture. I mean, if we’re going to call a book succeed in business without sacrificing your family, health, and life, I mean, there’s certainly an aspect of culture just in that statement. So how does culture really play into your formula? Well, I know how it plays into your formula, but how does somebody use it as a positive driver?
David Finkel: Yeah. Well, we take it just in the context of this idea that we’re going to build a company where we don’t value people who just look busy or who are responsive, but we’re looking to value and reward and to give attention to people who truly do create value [inaudible] push the organization towards its goals. So one of the cultural aspects that I encourage them to do in the book is to actually have an honest conversation about this and run a 60 day experiment. And for 60 days you’re going to take a look at what are the boundaries and the ground rules? Where should people be responsive and where should people be able to put some boundaries? If Tim is going to be running a meeting with your three best programmers, shouldn’t he be able to have all those people turn off their email? Shouldn’t he be able to have all those people turn off their phones for that two hour meeting without other people saying, “Oh my gosh, you let us down by not being responsive.” Well, our culture is there.
David Finkel: How about our culture at nights and on weekends? One of the things we talk in the book is about take the needle out of the haystack. Well, a lot of people are connected to their phone because they’re afraid of missing that one email out of 1,000 or 5,000, and so they’ll literally give up their entire quality of life so they don’t miss that one email. Let’s be smarter than that. Let’s ask ourselves, “What’s a better mechanism to deliver that one out of 1,000 message that really is mission critical and needs to be addressed in the evening or on the weekend?” But outside of that, that gives me back my life, and because of that we’ll retain our staff longer, their families won’t resent them and their company, and will get more of their whole hearted buy-in for them because they can have a life and not have to sacrifice everything.
John Jantsch: Visiting with David Finkel, author of The Freedom Formula. David, one thing I know about you is you are a systems and process and tools kind of guy, and so everything we’ve been talking about, I know you have built into a toolkit that comes with the Freedom Formula, so you want to tell people where they can find out more about the book, and especially about this toolkit?
David Finkel: Yeah, absolutely. So they can go to freedomtoolkit.com, and while they’re there, not only can they can find links to go ahead and get a copy of the book at freedomtoolkit.com, but once they’ve gotten the book they should register it and as a free value add, there’s all kinds of PDF and video-based tools. For example, there’s a 90 day quick-start program that guides you and your staff through the book over the course of 90 days, where it gives you one page every month that you’ll go through with your team for a meeting to run about that particular section of the book. You get a copy for each of your staff, you follow it that way through. You can download the PDF, the rest of it. I think your listeners will really enjoy that. Just at freedomtoolkit.com
John Jantsch: Absolutely. It is, I mean, invaluable. Not only the book and what the book teaches, but just having those templates and those forms really can help you get started. So David, it was great catching up with you again. In fact, I was just out in your part of the world, I did a little backpacking trip through Yellowstone. So I probably flew right over you on the way up there.
David Finkel: Thank you for having me on here, John. I had a really good time here. I appreciate it.
John Jantsch: Well, hopefully we’ll catch up with you again sometime soon on the road. Take care.