Susan Boles (00:04):
Hey there, Susan here. I am in the middle of working on some really fantastic updates for my course, Not Rocket Finance, which is all about business finance basics for folks who don't speak accounting. And that update, will be releasing at the end of this month. But I'm taking a short break from releasing new episodes here to give myself a little bit of breathing room to finish that up. Next week, I'll be back with new episodes and we're going to talk about maintenance mode in your business.
Susan Boles (00:32):
But this week I'm revisiting one of my conversations with Michelle Warner and bringing you an episode full of the best cuts from that interview. Michelle designs tiny companies that are built to last. And she's the creator of Networking That Pays, the 5 minute a day, never awkward networking system that I use in my own business. She's a pro at helping business owners get out of their own way and she's one of those people that I go to when I'm getting in my own way.
Susan Boles (00:58):
Michelle and I talk about her 80/20 framework to harnesses creative energy and how to turn it into something useful instead of something that can quickly derail you. And this is the perfect episode to get you ready for digging more into maintenance mode in your business because that creativity and subsequent derailment is one of those mindset things that can really trip folks up when they're thinking about getting into maintenance mode.
Susan Boles (01:22):
You have a framework, I guess it's a framework, right?
Michelle Warner (01:27):
Susan Boles (01:28):
As you call it, kind of the 80/20. So can you tell me a little bit more about that, how it works and how you use it with your clients?
Michelle Warner (01:35):
Yeah. So this is a little bit of a spin. I think we've all heard the 80/20 Pareto principle about effort and results. But what I like to spin it into, is again encouraging this compounding effect because we are going to have competing priorities. You know me, I like to work in the nuance and in the gray area. I think in entrepreneurship, we hear a lot of advice on either extreme and one of the pieces of advice that makes me insane, even though I've kind of just said it, is to focus on the one thing and you should only do one thing. Well, that's all so not practical because we have creatives, as entrepreneurs we're multi-passionate. So I just said I've all the empathy in the world for creative entrepreneurs, especially who have all the ideas and all the creativity. It is hard to go from that world into a world where you are so focused and disciplined that you are only focused on one thing.
Michelle Warner (02:26):
So what I have started to ask my entrepreneurs to do, and it works magnificently, is I say, give me 80%. So I'm going to tell you what the foundation is, I'm going to tell you where I want you to compound everything. Yes, in my perfect world, you're doing that 100% of the time, but you know what, give me 80%. And then 20% go play. Because what I find is that it cuts down on the rebellion. And I'm here for it too, I like to rebel when I'm told to just focus on one thing. But if we can take 80% of your time and focus on the thing you need to be focusing on and then let the energy of everything else dissipate in the other 20%, that's sustainable. You can keep up with that. And so I like doing that better than just saying, no, the one thing, you need to be focused on the one thing.
Michelle Warner (03:08):
And the other great part about 80/20 is it leaves open all of these possibilities. You know I told you that I believe you can have all the things, just maybe not all at the same time. So if you can be focusing on one thing, 80% of your time, the other stuff gets the other 20%, but then it can switch. Once you've gotten your foundation, pretty well nailed, it'll never be perfect, but you get it pretty well nailed, then that can go over into the 20% time and you can bring another idea into the 80% time and build that baby. And then maybe the next cycle, you go back and bring your foundation course back into the 80%, because now you're ready to really make it even more efficient and better. And so that comes into the 80%, then that's happened. And so then the next quarter, you bring in another idea and that gets your 80% of time. And I have just found that that framework allows people to frankly stay sane. It allows you to feel like all of your ideas are being nurtured, but it also gives you the effect of focusing.
Susan Boles (04:08):
I absolutely appreciate that. It's a direct combat to shiny things syndrome, is sure that can be your idea, do this thing over here for 80%, play around with it for 20%. And I think it also allows for kind of the natural evolution of business in that we do focus on the one thing and there is true benefit to focusing on the one thing, systematizing it, making it as good as it can possibly get. But also if we don't ever explore new ideas, our business can't evolve, we end up stuck in business 10 years ago because we can't react to the changes in the market or changes in how businesses are running or what kind of courses people are taking or whether or not they're taking courses versus memberships and without that time to explore, I think if you were focusing 100% of your time on the exact thing, that's how businesses and organizations get into that. Well, that's the way we've always done it, so that's how we're going to keep doing it, which is ultimately how you end up going out of business eventually.
Michelle Warner (05:15):
Exactly. And I probably shouldn't admit this live, but I'm just having a realization of where this framework probably came from for me. And it's, my background is in tech startups, and this is actually how, and I don't know if they still do it, but this is how Google and Facebook and all those companies nurture their engineers, right? They have 20% of their time to just goof off. For every company, it's not actually 20%, it varies probably between 10% and 30%, but they all have their jobs and then they have other time to just play, because that is how the companies innovated in the early days.
Michelle Warner (05:48):
And again, I'm not sure if that is all still in place, but I'm realizing that that was probably in the back of my head and that is where this idea came from. I always talk about pressure valves, you need to release that pressure of all of the other ideas and give them space. You can't just let them live in your head, building up steam as these things that have to be done sometime, and this thing is keeping me from doing that, and that's so unfair.
Susan Boles (06:13):
That's so interesting that it came out of tech stars. So my background is in higher education, which is the exact opposite. A state higher education institution is the direct of... If you could come up with something that is less like a startup, it would be higher education at a state institution-
Michelle Warner (06:32):
I can only imagine.
Susan Boles (06:34):
[crosstalk 00:06:34] plus the higher ed, moves at the speed of a slug and a lot of the organizations, I was always the person coming in saying, but why are we doing it this way? And do we still have to? Is there a good reason? And always getting the answer, well, this is the way we've always done it. And so it's interesting that your perspective from the fast moving allows you to create the pressure valve. And I so value that pressure valve, that you need to spend time innovating or looking at new practices or understanding how things are changing so that you can get out in front of it. But that that needs to be held at the same time that you're holding focus on the thing that you're currently doing and doing it really well and focusing on putting out good work and doing the thing that you are doing right now very well at the same time that you're focusing on what could the future look like.
Michelle Warner (07:31):
I love that. And I love that analogy because you could run with that and say that if you didn't have this 20% of the time, if you did have the pure focus that people tell you you need to have, yeah, you're going to turn into a bureaucracy because you're going to lose all ability to think interestingly, right? But at the same time, if all you do is chase ideas, again, you're never going to get anywhere because you're just running around on this hamster wheel that is not very useful.
Michelle Warner (07:57):
I always look to the art world for inspiration, for whatever reason. And I think about constraint, right? Give me a frame and let me do whatever I want to do within the frame. And that is much more effective than just telling me to go create something. And I feel like 80/20 is taking that as well. I actually thought my inspiration for 80/20 came from the art world, but now I'm realizing it probably came from the tech startup world. But I think you can meld all of those things of looking for a little bit of constraint in order to allow you to create, because blank canvases are the most terrifying thing there is.
Susan Boles (08:30):
Absolutely. As entrepreneurs, we all naturally are just creators, like you said. Anybody who owns a business, runs a business, is by nature I think an artist, and for some of us, and you and I have talked about this outside of this conversation, that business is our art. Designing businesses and structuring them in a way that makes sense. And that puzzle piece, that is our art.
Michelle Warner (09:03):
[crosstalk 00:09:03] being good at business is the most fascinating kind of art. My favorite [crosstalk 00:09:07]-
Susan Boles (09:07):
I mean, you need to have a way to constrain that instinct of, there is no entrepreneur that can't come up with a good idea. Once you've started one business, it's so hard to turn it off and not turn everything you see into a business opportunity. And I like that the framework allows for that natural instinct of the people that start businesses.
Michelle Warner (09:37):
Yeah. And I think if any of us can do anything good for an entrepreneur, it is to help bring in the nuance. Because entrepreneurs are just so, they're not black and white thinkers, but they get stuck at these two ends of extreme spectrums. If I'm not hustling, I'm dead. If I'm not creating, I'm dead. And no, there actually is a little bit of a middle ground and you can live within the nuance, and that's what 80/20 is all about. Is please go have all the ideas, please listen to what your customers say, and then also please think before you execute.
Susan Boles (10:12):
Or use a filter.
Michelle Warner (10:14):
Susan Boles (10:16):
Or a good friend, that can be like, hey, [crosstalk 00:10:17]-
Michelle Warner (10:17):
Susan Boles (10:18):
If you liked these cuts and you want to hear more from my conversation with Michelle, you can go listen to the full episode. It's episode number seven, and we'll drop a link to it in the show notes. Next week I'll be back with a new episode, all about maintenance mode. So be sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don't miss it. Break the Ceiling is produced by Yellow House Media. Our executive producer is Sean McMullin. Our production coordinator is Lou Blazer. This episode was edited by Marty Seefeldt with production assistance by Kristen Runvik.