How You Make Money

Your business doesn’t really care how you make money. Your email and Twitter and Facebook and some of your employees don’t care either.

infomatique via Flickr CC

The thing is you have to care or you’ll never move beyond the daily grind of answering to the loudest call.

Here’s a very big secret – if you get this it will change your life – there’s a very, very small amount of everything you do each day that matters. Figure that out, focus on that and you’ll never go to work the same way again.

Only a handful of your clients matter when it comes to making money. Figure out who they are and how to amplify what they mean. Make your products, services, processes and value propositions all about them.

Only a handful of your subscribers can help you get to the next level. Segment them and talk to them every chance you get. Ask them to share the single most important thing you can do to help them.

Only a handful of available actions presented to you each day can make you the kind of money that makes all of this worth doing. Think about what they are and guard your day, your week, your month, from every other distraction.

Start looking at your business as a vehicle for solving the greatest challenges of your most profitable customers and then figure out how to do that better. That’s not cynical, that’s not greedy, that’s where you help the world, that’s where you provide the most value – and that’s what will make you the most money.

Today, pick out your three best customers and identify three ways you can do more for them.

Join Our Content Community

First Name

Last Name

Your Email (this will be your username)

Password (at least 8 characters, 1 number, 1 upper and lowercase letter)

Already a member? Log In

  • steveborgman

    John, so powerful, so elegant, so simple, yet so little practiced!  You’ve really helped me think more intelligently about this, so I thank you.  Now, I have to start actually tracking those sales! 😉

    • ducttape

      Thanks Steve – come back and tell us how you’re doing!

  • Ryan Hanley


    First… Great post title… I couldn’t not click.  

    Second… I get here and the content is fantastic so if I wasn’t already a huge fan I would be.

    Third… As I get deeper into my insurance business this concept is the daily struggle that keeps from taking the next step.  This concept “Answering the Loudest Call” keeps me from attracting more of the customers that I want to do business with.

    Great stuff and Thank you!

    Ryan H.

    • ducttape

      Thanks for being such a great supporter Ryan – I’ve found that I do a better job of letting go of the loudest call when I have this really short list of what I’m trying to do next to me at all times.

      The hardest part for me is letting go of the things I like to do, some of the things that I know how to do – but shouldn’t do.

      • Ryan Hanley


        That’s a really powerful statement.  Just because you know how to do something doesn’t mean you should be doing it…

        Nice. Thanks.

    • Carmen Sognonvi

      Ryan, like you, I definitely fall into the trap of answering the loudest call. I think it’s especially hard when you have a (really) small business and can’t delegate everything.

      Sometimes when urgent things come up, it’s hard for me to be disciplined enough to still do the things that are foundational to my business’s success. (Getting the weekly email newsletter out, for example.)

      But one thing I’ve found that helps is tracking where our revenue/customers actually come from.

      I know, for instance, that our email newsletter is an extremely effective way of getting new students. There are people who’ve been on our list for years without signing up, and one week’s newsletter will be what pushes them over the edge to finally call us and book a class.

      So knowing that, I’m less likely to skip that task for the week in favor of something that seems more urgent/loud.

      Thanks for this reminder, John! It’s always good to keep it mind.

      • Ryan Hanley

        Carmen… That’s excellent.  With all the blogging I do I still find that the Newsletter drives a huge piece of the revenue puzzle.


  • EDM Machines

    I want to feel duped but I really don’t. ‘How You Make Money’ is not the same as ‘How TO Make Money’ so no harm done by you.

    Finding that path to reach your own personal monopoly of service is hard but improving yourself, your department and your company overall is not. Talk to people, learn about efficiency and if you can think of a better way, don’t keep that to yourself. The highest paid and most successful people don’t punch in and punch out. They get the assignment and don’t stop until its done and done right. 

    • ducttape

      I’m guessing that titled drew a few people in and that was certainly the intent, but another big message is that the most successful people focus on the top 20% of everything and forget the rest.

      • Dennis @ Brochure Boxes

         The same as the clients that are profitable. 20% and the other 80% just get the work done on an as needed basis.

  • Marc Ensign

    You forgot one word: value!  Add plenty of value and the money will come.  The clients will beat a path to your door…the good ones!  Like Zig says “You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.”

    • ducttape

      Hey Marc if I didn’t come out and say it, it was certainly meant – I often refer to it as the multiplier – take people that love what you do become invaluable to them and you can charge whatever you like.

  • Brad Farris

    I once interviewed at ITW and they have something called the 80/20 rule. 80% of their profits come from 20% of their customers, and 20% of their products. They only focus on the top 20% of their customers and profits and totally ignore the rest. Those top 20% customers constantly lead them in to new and profitable directions (that they other 80% end up buying). That focus is the secret to their success (according to them).

  • Alfred Poor

    “Half of my advertising works and half of it doesn’t. If I only knew which half.” John Wanamaker

    If only I knew which three clients, three leads, three clients…. I totally agree that spending your first and best time on the most leveraged activities is a great idea. I just find that I have difficulty in accurately identifying just which activities those are.

    Alfred Poor
    The Center for Small Business

  • Don Campbell

    Well put John. This is something I don’t do enough of – really asking myself if I’m working on the most important things every day. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Microphone

    Great insight. Thanks

  • Kyle Kam

    Making money is one the most important thing a person must do while they’re still breathing. Be the best that you can when doing this kind of thing. Your character will reflect on your results, remember that.
    Learning from the mistakes of the past can really help in what we can do now. 

  • MicroSourcing

    It only makes sense to focus on customers who generate the most profit for the business, but it’s important to avoid establishing “priority groups” or power cliques within the consumer base because this can drive other clients away.

  • Blair Warner

    It is true, if we focus on what makes us money, a natural side effect is that customers and the world get served better, because they go hand in hand. The opposite it true, too, but many of us get side-tracked on activity that is good, but does not contribute out our overall value and money making.

  • Anders Michael

    This concept is one that I loose track of at times. Thanks for the reminder.

  • BryanChambers

    In what one state Democrat has called “Robin Hood in reverse,” Kansas’ tax committee this week approved a bill that would cut taxes on the wealthiest Kansans to the tune of $1,500, while raising taxes on those residents making less that $25,000 per year. About half a million of the state’s poorest residents will see their taxes hiked under the plan:Best Laundry Detergent