“Men go shopping just as men go out fishing or hunting, to see how large a fish may be caught with the smallest hook.” – Henry Ward Beecher (Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887)

Something to ponder: All your clients, customers, and employees have a hidden mission . . . and that is to reduce your profits to zero.

It is a cynical thought, but it’s true. The moment you let up on the pressure to produce, sell, save, and improve, your bottom line will begin to shrink. If you let up on it long enough, all the profits will eventually seep out of your good business.

Consider this:

* The primary personal goal of each customer is to get the most from you and pay the least amount to you.

* The primary personal goal of every employee is to get the highest salary and do the least amount of work.

* The primary goal of every one of your competitors is to give your customers the impression that they can get more and pay less from him than from you.

This adds up to a natural and relentless tendency for your expenses to rise and your profit margins to shrink. It’s an inevitable and eternal law of business.

The only thing that can counter that tendency is you: your energy, your ideas, your persistence. You can’t count on your employees, your customers, or your competitors to make your business work. It is up to you.

You can defeat the zero-profit forces first by recognizing that you can’t let up, second by applying relentless, intelligent energy toward your business, and third by identifying good people who will accept your relentless energy in a positive way.

Don’t take this message as meanspirited. Great and good employees do exist. Same is true of customers and vendors. But even the great and good ones have a natural inclination to defeat your profits. If the pressure to preserve profits doesn’t come from you, it may not come at all.

Profits are not natural. They are the result of unnatural pressure. They are the something extra that is produced when one person stirs up so much energy that he affects the energy production of those around him.

As a business builder, you are the starter motor that sets in motion a half-dozen engines around you, which, in turn, set in motion another 36, which, in turn, set in motion another 216, and so on.

This is Action Tuesday, so do this now: Make a formal personal commitment to double the pressure to produce, sell, save, and improve immediately — and to keep it doubled at least until you have found someone or several people who will apply the same amount of pressure even when you don’t.