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How to Make Your Business Profitable in the First Year

“The key to success isn’t much good until one discovers the right lock to insert it in.” Tehyi Hsieh (Chinese Epigrams Inside Out and Proverbs, 1948)

Four things to know about success:

1. It has almost nothing to do with luck.

2. It very seldom happens “overnight.”

3. If you have only one goal in life, it is entirely achievable.

4. Achieving the impossible is a matter of accomplishing a certain number of very achievable tasks.

ETR rests on the premise that success is a matter of (1) establishing goals, (2) identifying the specific actions needed to achieve each of them, and (3) having the tenacity to attack and accomplish each specific task over a predetermined period of time.

You begin with your Life Goals. I recommend that you have four of them. (See Message #102.)

Next, you determine what you need to accomplish in the next five to seven years in order to achieve those Life Goals. Figure out exactly what you must do in the first year, then in second year, third year, and so on.

Identify which of those yearly accomplishments are urgent and which are not.

Assign priorities to the non-urgent goals.

Break down the yearly accomplishments into monthly objectives and turn those into first weekly and then daily tasks. Make absolutely sure you finish those daily tasks.

Last May, I tested this theory on my sister-in-law. (Best to experiment on family members before friends, clients, etc.)

CF wanted to open up her own physical-therapy business. She had gotten her degree, had spent a year working for other people, and was convinced that the specialty she wanted to practice (pelvic-floor problems for women) had a ready market. She just didn’t know how to find it. Nor was she sure of how to set up the administrative part of the business.

We made a deal. I’d act as her “boss” on a consulting basis. We would first agree on long-term, then on one-year, and then on monthly goals. We’d meet every three or four weeks and talk about how to accomplish those goals. We set very specific targets based on how many patients she would book each week.

She agreed to work at least 40 hours a week regardless of how many patient-hours she had booked. During the first three months, she aimed to book only five appointments. She would spend three hours taking care of administrative expenses and the rest — 32 hours — would be spent on marketing.

CF had not counted on how much time she needed to spend on selling her business, but I convinced her that nothing would happen if she didn’t do that. So she did it. She made countless visits to doctors’ offices in our community, set up appointments with small social clubs for women, and placed ads.

Neither of us knew anything about marketing professional services at the time, but we didn’t let that stop us from going out and pounding the pavement. Initial responses were meager, but, bit by bit, patient by patient, the practice grew.

During the second quarter, from September through November, CF increased her paid-for visits to 10 a week. The quarter after that to 16, and the quarter after that to 21. At 21 visits and 11 hours of administrative work, CF had only eight hours to devote to marketing.

As I said, we met every month — and every month we reviewed the goals and came up with new ideas to attract new patients. We never gave up (though we thought about it more than once). Many of our efforts failed. Yet, we persisted. Here and there, we had modest successes that allowed us to meet our relatively conservative objectives and kept her motivated to keep trying.

Finally, we hit upon a few marketing concepts that worked — and then an ad that pulled very well. As of this morning, when we met for the 11th time, the business was making an annualized $120,000 a year and netting half of that.

We agreed on an aggressive “back-end” plan for next year and are projecting revenues in excess of $200,000, with net earnings of about $100,000. Not bad for a start-up operation in a field — physical therapy — that has a very high new-business mortality rate.

Eleven months after agreeing to follow the ETR program, CF is a business success. In a world where more than 90% of new ventures fail, CF has become profitable in less than a year.

The big point is this: CF accomplished what to others must seem like an amazing success — but she did it without performing any miracles.

All she did, really, was to follow a long-term program that broke long-term goals down into shorter-term objectives and finally specific tasks. Each individual task was easy: (1) Stop by three doctors’ offices and leave brochures. (2) Call up such-and-such new mothers’ groups and see if they would like her to talk to them. (3) Buy a quarter-page ad in the Jewish Journal.

Each task was simple and could be accomplished fairly quickly. Put them all together — as CF did — and you can achieve remarkable success in a very short period of time.

I want to formally congratulate CF on her extraordinary accomplishment. By any statistical computation, she has elevated herself to the top of her class. She is now an independent business owner — answering only to herself and creating her own work schedule — and is on her way to earning significant money.

I’ve done this before. And it’s worked before. In fact, I think it’s fair to say I’ve mentored more than a dozen people in starting new businesses — and every one has been successful.

This is not because I’m a good coach. It’s because the system works. A 100% success ratio sounds impressive, but when you consider what it really represents — the faithful execution of small tasks — you can understand why it can work so well.

What’s your goal? How close are you to achieving it?