Are you chasing field mice or antelopes?

Lion anetlope

Are you chasing field mice or antelopes?

“A lion is fully capable of capturing, killing, and eating a field mouse. But it turns out that the energy required to do so exceeds the caloric content of the mouse itself. So a lion that spent its day hunting and eating field mice would slowly starve to death. A lion can’t live on field mice. A lion needs antelope. Antelope are big animals. They take more speed and strength to capture and kill, and once killed, they provide a feast for the lion and her pride. … So ask yourself at the end of the day, ‘Did I spend today chasing mice or hunting antelope?’”

Newt Gingrich – speaker of US House of Representatives

What is Gingrich’s underlying message?

Certainly, the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule is implied in this quotation . However, there is another message for managers and business owners here, that is to focus with discipline on the issues that provide the best return for your resources of time, money and expertise. The danger is business failure, as explained by Michael E Gerber in The e-Myth Revisited – Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it. This is where a business owner and manager who understands the technical nature of the business but does not understand the business is likely to fail. In summary, they do what they are comfortable in doing and what they know, not what they should be doing.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t, describes how a ‘culture of discipline’ is evident in successful companies. This begins with disciplined leaders who display empathy, personal humility and intense focus. They do not suffer from ‘I’ strain and rarely appear in the media seeking celebrity. Before purchasing our logistics business, I worked for a privately-owned transport company. In an industry that was known for its larger than life personalities who courted the media, the owner was virtually unknown. He ran a highly successful business which was far more profitable than many of the publicly listed companies in the industry. He was extremely disciplined in strictly adhering to his market niche which enabled higher profits and greater customer service.

In another example of discipline, I managed a large division of a transport business in a large regional centre where the managing director was passionate about truck safety. This involved vehicle journey’s being monitored by on-board computers to prevent speeding, exceeding mandated driving hours and excessive idling as it wastes fuel. If drivers exceeded the speed limit by 5% in a week they were disciplined and if this occurred three times within 12 months the driver was terminated. Like the lion it was targeting the areas that significantly affected the successful operation of the business. Each week the performance of the trucks and drivers was given to me to action. I decided against the advice of my peers to post the results on the drivers‘ notice board.

Did the drivers react negatively to being compared to others as I had been warned would occur?


Instead each week many of the drivers would compare their performance of their vehicles and themselves. Some drivers would personally seek me out to ask if there were problems with their vehicle and why for example their vehicle had appeared to be idling excessively. They became self-disciplined team members who were more accountable and didn’t need to be micro-managed. Fuel economy improved and more importantly our accident record was the best in the business despite having drivers’ company-wide who travelled the most kilometres each week. Within the ‘safety framework’ a culture of freedom and responsibility had developed.

For a business to grow or change in a positive way, the discipline required must be where consistent behaviours align with achieving the organisation’s goals. Note the words – “discipline” and “consistent”. The aim is for consistent productive goal-oriented behaviours to become habits. Habits once formed become entrenched, however they must be right habits and they must align with the organisation’s vision and goals. In the drivers’ example, safety and performance became a habit. With the niche transport company, the discipline was only remaining in its narrow market niche. Both examples required disciplined people acting in a disciplined manner, demonstrating that discipline must start at the top.

Here is another example. I was engaged to undertake a business review by a niche logistics business which had suddenly begun losing money. Determining the prime reason was relatively easy; the business had lost a major customer who had contributed the majority of their previous profits. This was only a symptom of what was wrong. A walk through their numerous warehouses provided some answers. The warehouses were dirty, stock was not in the correct locations and staff were inadequately supervised. Management was focussed on managing day to day crises, were not enforcing operational disciplines, rates had not increased in several years and customer service was inconsistent. Classic chasing field mouse behaviour.

The business review formed the basis of a new business plan. New benchmarks for performance were established and a renewed commitment to improving customer service was implemented. This was underpinned by imposing operational disciplines in the warehouse following consultative meetings with staff. Several managers and supervisors exited the business and a new general manager and senior management team were appointed. In the first year the company made a modest profit. In the second year, profits exceeded expectations, revenue grew through targeted strategic sales in the business’ market niche, prices increased, unprofitable customers were forced from the businesses, a warehouse was closed and new leases with more favourable terms were negotiated. This was a good practical example of what Jim Collins describes in his book, Good to Great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t; disciplined people – first who; then what, disciplined thought; confronting the brutal facts, and disciplined action; a culture of discipline.

Being a successful business owner, leader and manager requires discipline. Lack of discipline manifests itself physically in examples such as untidy and dirty warehouses, poor telephone manners and uninspiring first impressions.

What are the antelopes you should be hunting in your organisation?

Have you identified the field mice?

Is it clear to others in the business?

Do the antelopes align to your vision, values and goals?

Discipline in the areas of accountability, teamwork, and attention to detail are required. Disciplined leadership is defined by is defined by sound habits, rigour, consistency and routines. A disciplined environment assists in putting both management and employees on their best behaviour leading to improving productivity and profits.

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Productivity

Podcast by Kim Wallis

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Productivity

This is the third blog by an external guest contributor, this time the blog is provided by Integral Media ( We hope you enjoy it and find it useful. It’s a great time of the year to give due consideration to increasing your productivity. Happy New Year and all the best for 2019.

Boosting productivity can be difficult for many of us but there are ways and means. There is an art to it, however. The key is working smarter rather than harder and longer. It’s how you use the hours you have at your disposal that increases your productivity. For instance, it’s a good idea to take regular breaks, which helps your concentration. So don’t slog away for hours on end, it will only cause fatigue and lack of focus. Try these simple tips instead:

  1.  Say No to Notifications

Notifications are a major reason people fall behind in their productivity. The beeps and jangles will take your focus off your task, so the advice is switch notifications off, permanently if possible. If you can bear to do it, remove Facebook, Twitter and all the other social media apps from your phone. You’ll feel a sense of freedom and see the difference in your productivity levels. Also, if you’re on a deadline and must concentrate, close your emails and put the phone in Aircraft or ‘do not disturb’ mode. You probably won’t miss anything vital by going off-grid for an hour or so.

  1. Get Your Thoughts on Paper

It isn’t easy to get your thoughts organised, especially when you’re busy, but the more ideas you have banging around in your head the more difficult it is to concentrate on what’s happening now. If you don’t write your thoughts or ideas down, it blocks your creativity. Get into the habit of writing it down, even though you might toss an idea out later. No matter what program you use, or if you simply have a ‘to-do’ list, (which you need as well) getting your ideas on paper means your next great idea won’t get lost in the maelstrom in your brain. Knowing your ideas are safe means you can deal with what’s in front of you and you won’t make the mistake of trying to multitask. Research (1) shows multitasking lessens productivity by up to 40 per cent.

  1. Hydrate

If you’re even slightly dehydrated you won’t be able to concentrate properly, and if you’re very dehydrated you might feel dizzy or nauseated, or have a headache which doesn’t help with your productivity. How much water you need in a day will depend on your age, any medications (especially diuretics) your diet, daily environment and level of activity. Some need more than the recommended eight drinks of water a day and some need less.

  1. Eat Healthily

Don’t race out at lunchtime and get greasy takeaway, or eat cakes and sweets at morning tea. It’s hard, but you should think about the fuel you’re putting into your body every day if you want to feel good and be productive. Make your own work lunches. You’ll feel so much better and save money.

  1. Get Regular Exercise

Your mind and body are a double act; they work together, and if your body is not functioning at an optimal level, it will affect your brain and the stress will, in turn, affect your body. It’s a vicious cycle. The answer is exercise. The latest findings suggest that exercise rather than painkillers are better for treating chronic back pain, for instance, but it takes time and you must start slowly. A few stretches during your break may ease painful joints.

  1. Be a Reader

Most of those who inhabit the lofty realms of business success have one thing in common: they read, and they read avidly. Reading provides you with further education, relaxation and increased creativity. Reading also exercises your brain muscle, helps you create new images and teaches you new words to increase your vocabulary and it all boils down to better productivity.

  1. Do Something Different

If you become deeply involved in your work and exclude everything else it will become stultifying. You’ll stagnate for lack of variety, relaxation and fun. Spending day after day on the same treadmill will make your work a bore, even if the task is one that you love. You need space, a work-life balance, a change of pace and a break from your major goal. Being balanced means you’ll avoid tunnel vision, and your brain will have space and time to come up with new ideas. Some ways to relax and take a break include:

  • Walking the dog
  • Doing some yoga
  • Baking a meal
  • Lazing in an Epsom salts and lavender oil bath
  • Going to a Zumba class
  • Having a manicure
  • Gaming
  1. Habits: Make Minor Changes

Nobody is really sure how long it takes to form a habit, and it’s probably different for each of us. But forming good habits is important, even Aristotle thought so (2). Habits and routines are fundamental to consistency, which is fundamental to achieving goals. Making small changes rather than dramatic ones cements an action or reaction into an automatic response or habit. So start small and add to your goal gradually.

  1. Keep Track of Progress

It’s so easy to forget where you’re headed, especially if your project is a long-term one. By tracking your progress you can appreciate how the smaller tasks add up. The truth is, talent doesn’t get you far in life. It’s what you do with it. It’s the hard slog, showing up for work every day, even if things look grim in other areas of your life and you just want to give up. Tackle the smaller tasks first, then you’ll feel as if you’re getting things done, which you will be. Be tenacious and determined, follow all the above tips and always tackle the harder tasks first thing in the morning. The longer you keep at it in a healthy way to sooner your productivity will grow.

  1. Healthy Sleep

Try some sleep hygiene – it involves more than just cleaning your teeth – it’s a routine that can begin an hour before you actually hop into bed. You could turn your phone off, read a book or take a hot shower. Your routine should include things that don’t stimulate so no alcohol or coffee. The more you follow your routine the sooner your body will become accustomed to knowing it’s a lead-up to sleep. Sleep hygiene helps you get a good night’s sleep so you can wake up energised and enthusiastic, and it will show in your productivity.

5-Dimensionz is a Melbourne-based company working with business owners and company directors to improve their performance and profits. Contact us for a free no-obligation confidential business review. We will discuss your vision and concerns and identify opportunities to lift the performance of your business.  Call us on 0488 480 402 or email




The importance of standard routines and procedures


The importance of standard routines and procedures

“Routine sets you free”
Verne Harnish – founder of Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization (YEO)

One of the biggest issues faced by businesses as they grow is managing the growth. This is because their management systems come under strain.
Many businesses begin when a ‘technician’, for example, a tradesman such as an electrician decides that they want to go into business as they have the technical expertise. The new entrepreneur thinks that because they understand the technical work they also understand how the business operates.

This is a myth according to author Michael Gerber. In his book published over 20 years ago called The E-Myth he introduces the concept that very successful businesses have very simple and robust business systems that do not require exceptional managers. The more automatic and simplified your management system the more effective is your business. What Gerber is explaining is a franchise system.

Very early in my corporate career I worked for a business called Pioneer Concrete Services Ltd. The company grew from a single pre-mixed concrete plant in Sydney in the early 1950s to a major industrial corporation operating in 11 countries within 30 years. The founder was an accountant called Sir Tristan Antico who was obviously not a concrete ‘technician’. The primary foundation of the pre-mixed concrete business was a concept called ‘cell management’, where the plant manager was responsible for marketing, production, human resources, sales, quality and profitability. As a young graduate it was an exciting and challenging work environment where you quickly learnt business management skills or left.

Antico designed a very simple management system. Remember this was before computers. Each fortnight the manager reported their profit and loss using standard forms, showing gross margins, sales and profits. Once again using standard forms materials purchases and usage were reconciled monthly. The company could tell very quickly, regionally, nationally and internationally how it was travelling using this standardised and disciplined system. What I learnt at Pioneer I carried on to other companies I worked for and then to our own business.

As Vern Harnish says “Routine sets you free”

This disciplined, routine and systematic management system allowed Pioneer to expand quickly into international markets well before other competitors. Their business system was scaleable without the administrative and management bottlenecks often encountered when companies grow. One of my former managers said a trained monkey could run the Pioneer Concrete system.

As Warren Buffett, the great American investor said:

‘Buy into a business that’s doing so well an idiot could run it, because sooner or later, one will,’”

This was one of the main keys to Pioneer’s success. Interestingly, a new CEO recruited from outside the organisation and therefore with no allegiance to the cell management system took over. The cell management system with its standardised and disciplined management system was abandoned. The business was subsequently acquired by a major international competitor and a major Australian industrial icon was lost.

The question for any business owner is:

“Are your business systems scaleable so that your company can manage its growth without losing control allowing you to work on the business rather in it?”

Focus for Success

Focus for Success

“Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who in 1906 observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% population. He further developed his theory noting that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of his peas”

Do you hear today people say “Things are not what they used to be” and “Years ago there were more opportunities”?

Do you really think this is the case?

I would venture that the real issue is that today we face too many opportunities and we have too little focus. We get busier and busier and seem to achieve less and less, fighting bushfires rather than preventing them in the first place.

The reasons for this are many.

Often we place our attention on things ‘we enjoy doing’ rather than what we should be doing. We are in our comfort zone. For example, a manager meets with the people they like or get on with, avoiding dealing with those who are difficult or are problematic. A sales person calls on those clients and prospective clients who are close by or are easy to deal with. We are all guilty of doing this.

Have your heard of the Pareto Principle? This is often called the 80/20 rule where:

80% of sales come from 20% of our customers

20% of our customers give us 80% of our problems

20% of our customers demand 80% of our valuable time

80% of sales come from 20% of our products

Time, expertise and money are a limited resources.

Therefore it is important to try and apply Pareto’s Principle in our business and work life to get the best return. I once worked for a transport company who identified a market niche and specialised in this niche. They were extremely focussed on staying in this niche and were not tempted to expand outside this niche. The company had less than 6 customers, the profitability was many multiples of the industry average and was eventually sold for an exceptional profit.

What was the lesson?

I think it is obvious. Identify the areas that give you the greatest return for your time and resources and do not be distracted by other issues. Focus on what is important and not what you like doing. This requires discipline and is more easily said than done.

Here are some practical applications:

To reduce costs, identify which 20% of your customers are using 80% of the resources. With those who are not top profit generators, charge them for the resources they consume.

To maximise personal productivity, realise that 80% of your time is spent on the many trivial activities. Analyse and identify which activities produce the most value to your company. Then focus and concentrate on the vital few (20%). With the ‘left overs’ delegate or discontinue doing them.

To increase profits, focus your attention on the vital few customers (top 20%). Identify and rank your customers in order of profits. Then focus your sales activities on them. The 80/20 Rule predicts that 20% of the customers generate 80% of the revenues, and 20% yield 80% of the profits, however these two groups are not necessarily the same 20%.

If you wish to use the Pareto Principle to your advantage, the first step is to get started. Put your ideas down on paper – do not think too hard about it as you may become distracted. Once down on paper you can then work through your list and prioritise. A great tool to use is the 4 Segments diagram below…………. it makes decision making so much easier.



Do you want it?

If YES then achieve it.


Do you have it and want it?

If YES then keep it.


Do you want it?

If NO, then avoid it?


Do you have it and don’t want it?

If YES, then eliminate it.

Now it’s up to you…………..