Move Over 80/20: Your Business Also Needs 30–40

Photo by Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash.

A lesson of ‘Influencer’ suggests your challenges

need a quantity of strategies

You’ve likely heard about the 80/20 rule: 80% of consequences or results come from the top 20% of causes, inputs, effort. I do keep this, the Pareto Principle, in mind when making business decisions, but since I read Influencer: The Power to Change Anything* (Mc-Graw Hill, 2007) almost fifteen years ago, I keep another set of numbers more forefront in my mind: 30 to 40.

Influencer authors Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Swtizler present many thought-provoking, unexpected, and tested ideas on what actually influences the outcomes we desire in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our businesses. One of their powerful observations is that we often try to make changes in our various realms with one, two, or a small handful of methods — and often fail again and again to meet our objectives. What the authors discovered, however, is that the most successful change agents employ as many strategies as possible to produce a desired result. They say that can mean implementing 30, 40, or more ideas in the service of a goal! They demonstrate this through case studies as diverse as personal efforts to lose weight, a public health department’s campaign to reduce teen pregnancies, and The Carter Center’s work to eradicate guinea worm disease.


Engraved to my memory ever since, here are the broad strokes of how I continue to use that 30 to 40 fact in the face of business changes small and large I am trying to effect:

  • Brainstorming. Applying the lesson of 30 to 40 practically makes a brainstorming habit a necessity. It’s the key to keeping your creativity muscles limber enough to generate enough options from which you can cull the best. Daily morning brainstorming when facing business challenges is one of my top productivity hacks (#8).

  • Keep all the ideas. This one’s easy. Don’t throw out any ideas from your brainstorming sessions. Keep a running list of ideas and add to it as new thoughts pop up.

  • Steady persistence. Knowing in advance the sheer quantity of approaches possibly required to accomplish a major shift and stabilize that change re-oriented my expectations, my emotions, my mindsets, and my time horizons in carrying out my day-to-day business. It introduced a calm discipline, realism, resilience, and appreciation for sustainability to my freewheeling inclinations.

  • 80/20 plus 30–40. Once you’re attuned to the notion of just how many paths you could be taking to achieve the successes you want, go ahead and include the concept of 80/20. For me, this simply means prioritizing your list of ideas, always working on the ones most likely to produce the biggest results. When you’re ready for the next idea, return to the list and choose the most promising to pursue next.

  • Note and savor. As you proceed through the process, make mental or physical notes of your progress to assess where you’re at and remind yourself that you are in the middle of it, getting it done. Don’t just note it, savor it! Take time to drink that in, appreciate where you’re at. The benefits of savoring include increased mental and physical health, inner senses of competence and confidence, improved decision-making, and hopping on an upward spiral of happiness.


Take as an example, anyone — maybe you? — trying to turn their writing, creative skills, hobby, or side business into a full-time living. It would be easy to get discouraged if the first couple, or even the first several things you tried, didn’t yield the results you wanted. However, now that you know about the 30 to 40 lesson of Influencer, you can adjust your expectations, your attitude, and your overall approach. Begin your daily brainstorming and work your way 80/20-style through the ideas you’re regularly adding to the possibility list until your end goal materializes and stabilizes.


Your brainstorming can also include categories of strategies to try and ideas within those area. Here are some examples that are widely applicable:

Big picture planning

  • Decide what exactly it is that you’re trying to achieve, not in a generic sense but in specific detail.

  • Absorb the concept of defensive entrepreneurship and how having a Plan B, C, and D can fortify you along the way.

  • Integrate the ideas of vitamins, spaghetti, and ships, ways of rotating fresh sales and marketing ideas into your business that contribute to both growth and stability.

  • Harness creativity to offer something entirely different, to solve problems in new ways, to attract new customers.

Quality of products and services

  • Assess the products and services you offer and begin correcting quality shortcomings.

  • Know what your competitors are doing and find a way to offer something better, different, and/or additional.

  • Determine ways to add extra value to your products and services.


Customer Service, Client Experience

  • Adjust your attitude to match your goal.

  • Find the level and style of engagement to fit your clients’ needs.

  • Improve your phone manner and email habits.

  • Increase your response times.

  • Create mental or physical scripts for your most common interactions to guarantee you’re communicating all you want to.

  • Evaluate what it’s like to be your own client and remedy any gaps you notice.


  • Reach out and stay in touch with former clients and potential clients.

  • Share the value of what you offer when discussing your business with others.

  • Learn more about your customers and their needs through curiosity and open inquiry.

  • Ask for referrals: On your invoices. From clients, family, and friends. At networking events. In email follow-ups.

  • Design a social and emotional support system with other freelancers and self-employed people—for venting, encouragement, camaraderie, feedback, and idea-swapping.


  • Review and upgrade your email marketing — formatting, style, frequency, content, effectiveness.

  • Optimize your social media channels — best practices, quality and quantity of followers, frequency, style, content.

  • Gauge whether or not and to what degree all aspects of your marketing project the desired image.

  • Implement a focused and consistent plan for cultivating and staying in touch with traditional media contacts.

Pricing and Numbers

  • Know and analyze your numbers so that you can make data-based decisions.

  • Develop KPIs (key performance indicators) and use them to guide you towards your goal.

  • Bill and collect on time, every time.

  • Raise your rates if they’re too low and/or if you’re getting too busy at your current rate.


Quick Summary

  • A key lesson of Influencer is that it may take employing 30 to 40 or more different strategies to bring about real change.

  • Applying this insight to your business challenges is a solid way to accomplish your desired ends.

  • Make a habit of daily brainstorming on the change/s you want to bring about.

  • Save all of your ideas and keep adding to the list for future reference as needed.

  • Use the 80/20 principle to select what next to implement from your list.

  • Maintain and stabilize your progress by noting it and savoring it.

  • Brainstorm on categories of change as well as methods and ideas, e.g., big picture planning, quality of products and services, productivity, customer service, client experience, marketing, outreach, pricing, and others.

  • Continue until you have materialized the big change and stabilized it.


If you have a business challenge you’d like me to write about from the perspective of the 30 to 40 lesson of Influencer, drop me an email or put it in the reply below.

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