Business Success by the Numbers

What numbers lead to business success?

  • 0 – As in 0 /0 (zero injuries and zero accidents). In any company, the safety of employees and customers each and every day should be of highest concern.


  • 1 – As in one page. This should be the length of most documents and reports in any business. Kept to one page, summaries, plans and analyses are short, to the point, and laser focused on the essential issues.


  • 2 – As in two sides. Any time a manager has to mediate a dispute or decide an argument, it is essential for the manager to hear both sides of the argument before making the decision.

  • 3 – As in “Thinking in Threes.” This is the communication technique to analyze, organize, and summarize most concepts and actions in three points. As with a one pager…
    • Three points requires forced prioritization on the most important.
    • Three points can be remembered.
    • Three points can be communicated more easily.

  • 4 – As in four people. This is the maximum number of people to have in most meetings. Keeping meetings to as small a group as possible allows work to get done and progress to be made. With a greater number of people in a meeting, the accountability for each participant goes down rapidly along with their attention and commitment to drive action.

  • 5 – As in the “Five Whys.” This is Toyota’s technique to ensure that we focus on the root cause of the problem rather than a symptom. In using the “Five Whys”, start with a why question, to every answer ask a why question, repeat five times and you will usually come to the underlying root cause of the problem which is what needs to be solved.

  • 6 – As in six days in a week. This is the absolute maximum number of days in a week that anybody should work. We all need to have a day off, to rest, to re-charge batteries, and to mentally digest and process all that has gone on during the work days.

  • 10 – As in the “Rule of Ten.” This maxim of communication advises that a new concept or idea may need to be communicated as many as ten times before being internalized by the listeners. Employing the “Rule of Ten” helps convince the team that the message is important to you and that you mean what you say.

  • 20 – As in twenty minutes a day. This is the amount of time that we need to be working on that big, important, but not urgent task that we all too often procrastinate and avoid doing. By working on such a task for 20 minutes a day even the biggest elephant can be eaten in just weeks.

  • 30 – As in thirty minutes. This is the maximum time that nearly all meetings should last. By forcing meetings to be only 30 minutes long you require that the participants prepare, stay on point, and keep the meeting moving along. The all too common alternatives are those one hour meetings that drag on for hours.

  • 70 – As in seventy percent. This is the percentage of people on any typical conference call who are doing E-Mails (or texting or web surfing) while only half listening. In reality, that means everyone except the person who just spoke, the person actually speaking, and the annoying colleague eagerly waiting to interrupt in order to interject something that proves how smart and important they are.


  • 80 – As in the 80 /20 rule. This is the observation that 80% of all work can be done by focusing on the most important 20% of activities. Following the 80 / 20 lets you get the important 80% done in 20% of the time.

  • 80 – As in the “80 / 100 solution”. This is the solution that is not perfect but resolves 80% of the problem with the caveat that the solution is straightforward and simple enough that it can be 100% implemented by the people who are required to implement it.

    “There is a maxim: 80% strategy with 100% execution will win over 100% strategy with 80% execution.” Eugene Lee

  • 100 – As in 100%. This is the amount of time that we need to be focused and committed to doing what is right and ethical.

    “The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” … you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.” Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School

  • 110 – As in 110% Success. This is the success that you will achieve through a combination of “doing business by the numbers”, hard work and (of course) a good amount of luck.

About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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