How to Turn
"Time has never written a single
check. It's people...who end
up writing the checks."
By Dan Sullivan
People often say, “Time is money.” To a certain extent, it’s really
not true—time has never written a single check. It’s people—and
more importantly, your relationships with those people, who end
up writing the checks.
One of the biggest limitations to your success is the various
kinds of relationships you’re locked into. There are almost certainly parts of your client base and centers of influence you use
that don’t (and won’t) grow or get any better. Your goals may
change and get bigger, but if you’re pursuing them through
the same old relationships, it will get harder and harder to
Of course, more relationships do not equal more income. In
fact, it’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to maintain all your business relationships and give them equal service. It’s important to
realize that as you grow your business, there comes a point where
you’re no longer obliged to work with everyone who walks
through your door.
There is an important natural law at work here, the Pareto
principle: 20 percent of your clients generate 80 percent of your
income, while 80 percent of your clients generate only 20 percent
of your income. To top it all off, most of the time it’s the 80 percent who provide less income that also dominate 80 percent of
Within both camps, there will be relationships that are just too
costly, either financially or emotionally. But a small core of your
client base represents the kind of people you want to work with in
the future, as you grow. One approach that we teach at Strategic
Coach, which works very well for our clients, is to focus far more
on those top 20 relationships—the current clients or prospects
that truly appreciate what you do and are willing to reward you
These are the people who won’t view you as a source of free
information or a commodity; they value your wisdom and see
you as a partner in making some important part of their life and
business better or easier.
Once you’ve identified your top 20 relationships, I’d recommend systematically finding a way to delegate responsibility for
the other relationships. This frees you up to devote more time
and attention where it will be most rewarded. Whatever income
might be lost initially will soon be replaced many times over by
the remaining, more profitable clients.
Many entrepreneurs are just one relationship away from some
incredible opportunities, but they have to be willing to focus their
attention on their very best relationships in order to find or create
it. So look for those clients, customers, prospects, connections,
suppliers, centers of influence, and strategic partners with whom
you can (mutually) get out more than you put in.
Of course, the most important relationships of all are the ones
with your spouse and family. Yet with all the demands of running
a business, it’s all too easy to let these slip into the background.
Focusing on your best business relationships has the benefit of
giving you more time to spend on those personal relationships
that bring life’s best rewards. These are the relationships that
really sustain you when the going gets tough.
Many people who own and run a business think they have to
choose between their relationships. In a sense, they’re right. You
must choose to have good quality relationships, but you need
them in every aspect of your life.
It's true: time has never written you a single check. It’s relationships that equal money. And if you want better opportunities
and bigger checks, it’s your most valuable relationships with the
highest potential that you must develop.