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09/30/2013 02:25 pm ET | Updated Oct 28, 2013

Six-Figure to Seven-Figure Entrepreneur Productivity Evolution: What Productivity Means and What It Can Do for You

This three-article series is a Think and Grow Rich-type exposé that draws from the experiences of entrepreneurs in the "expert arena" (coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, online marketers) who have successfully grown their businesses to six figures or seven figures in income. After several months of interviewing a select group of such entrepreneurs, I have teased out some threads regarding productivity that are important to note and emulate if you desire to achieve a similar level of revenue generation.

The following business owners (most of whom are solopreneurs) graciously consented to be interviewed for this series:

Christine Gallagher - She's Got Clients
Milana Leshinsky - Milana, JV Insider Circle
Sue Rice - Master the New Net, The Midway Cafe
Alzay Calhoun - Coveted Consultant
Rhonda Hess - Prosperous Coach
Kim Clausen - Ready2Go Marketing Solutions
Tim Paulson - Tim Paulson
Julie Flippin - Make Your Success Real
Mara Glazer - Mara Glazer
Jeanna Gabellini - MasterPeace Coaching
Pamela Bruner - Make Your Success Real

They have shared their definitions of productivity, their self-assessment of their personal level of productivity, their current greatest productivity challenge and its importance, their sources of inspiration and training regarding productivity, and more.

In this article, I present their philosophies about productivity and what it means for their businesses.

What Is Productivity?

Getting work-related things done was THE common thread in everyone's definition of productivity. Some of the entrepreneurs emphasized the number or amount of things that get done - phrases such as "minimum amount of work for maximum income and freedom" and "getting a lot of stuff done that's imperative to the profitability of the business" attest to the concept that the amount of work is important, whether more or less!

More commonly, the participants expressed the sentiment that the "right" things need to be done. The statement above that alludes to things that are "imperative to the profitability of the business" is one example. "Getting things done in the spirit of my company," "getting high pay-off activities and tasks done every day," and "knowing what needs to be done and finding a way to do it without driving yourself crazy" are others.

One participant stated his belief that business productivity and personal productivity should be evaluated separately and that while both measures have their place, productivity should be defined with regard to the overall business.

Only four of the eleven entrepreneurs mentioned the concept of time in their definition of productivity. In addition to the definition indicating that high pay-off activities need be accomplished "every day," these statements consisted of the following:

Getting the right things done first that lead to the greatest impact and most income with the least effort and time

Getting as much done in a short period of time as possible while giving maximum quality and results

Getting the right things done in the time and budget allowed

Other ideas about productivity included "knowing what you want to do and doing it based on a plan" and "being in the flow, fully tapped into your inner business expert, present in the moment, and being creative."

Personal Productivity Rating

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, two of the entrepreneurs interviewed ranked themselves as a "10." Two ranked themselves between "8" and "9." Five rated themselves at a level of "8." The other two rank themselves between "6" and "8." The participant who separates business productivity from personal productivity ranks his business' productivity between "6" and "7."

The Perfect Business

The interviewees shared a wide variety of thoughts about what their "perfect" business would look like, if they could attain it.

Three people said that the perfect business does not exist, indicating that there's always room for growth and progress. A fourth person said that if her business were perfect, she'd look for ways to "shake it up" because perfection is not a state that is conducive to growth.

For those who could imagine a perfect business, it would be one that:

Allows you to do what you love

Gives you the ability to reach and serve more people and help them get results

Plays to your strengths

Allows you to reach a specific income goal, number of followers, and desired number of hours working

Is streamlined, on autopilot, and provides the majority of income through a recurrent source

Has a full schedule of clients who are great to work with and who pay on time

Allows for a "stay-cation" one week per month to work on the business and uses a copywriter "who can write the perfect copy for me before I tell her what I want!"

Greatest Productivity Challenge

I asked participants to state what their greatest current business productivity challenge is and to rank that challenge on a scale of 1 to 10 (with "1" being low and "10" being high). Not surprisingly, the challenges were as different as the persons sharing them.

The most serious challenge cited was a need to create and implement more systems in the business and it was ranked "15" on the scale of importance. (Systems are "standard operating procedures" that spell out, step by step, how to go about accomplishing particular tasks. They are the "instruction manual" for a business and anyone who needs to work for the business should be able to pick up a system and accomplish the associated task with zero to minimal assistance.) When the entrepreneur who cited this challenge successfully meets it, she will be able to step away from the daily activities of the business to focus on sales and delivering coaching services.

Challenges graded from 8 to 10 were:

Temporary overwhelm due to an outstanding response to an offer that resulted in a surge of potential and new clients

Managing new ideas so that the pursuit of these ideas does not take you off-course from your current projects and tasks

Interruptions such as e-mail, phone calls, and visitors

Balancing what you need to know with bringing on more people to keep the business growing

The lowest grade assigned to a current productivity challenge was a 2-3. The entrepreneur described it as "indulgences" such as checking e-mail at non-scheduled times during the day. These make her time less streamlined, which interferes with her ability to come up with creative new ideas for her business. The elimination of these indulgences would allow more "space" for creative ideas to flow.

Because she ranks herself as 8.5 on the productivity scale, this improvement would slightly increase that ranking. But she noted that she believes moving from "8.5" to "9.5" on the productivity scale is much more difficult than moving from a "2" to a "3."

Other challenges listed were "distractions from family due to working at home," "putting the creation of high quality content on autopilot," "balancing strategy and tactics," and "travel."

The results expected from conquering the aforementioned challenges include "life going back to normal," "continued success and more peace of mind," "the freedom to be more spontaneous," "more time to deliver products and services," and "being more productive, more profitable, and more balanced."

Sources of Advice / Training on Productivity

One participant reported that she does not look outside of herself for advice on productivity, saying that she doesn't like a lot of the paradigms that are touted online (example: batching tasks). She believes that productivity is personal and does what feels right for her - she specifically mentioned keeping her inbox at fewer than 50 messages at any given time, striving to keep her calendar clear of everything but personal appointments, and using a to-do list to decide what to do based on the products she is currently creating.

Similarly, another participant said that he likes the advice of Pete Williams because Williams advocates a customized approach, using ONLY the tools and strategies that will assist you in your business. This participant said that many productivity gurus will advise you to change your entire life as you know it and that this "doesn't hold" for him.

Others sources of productivity training and advice cited include mentors and mastermind groups; publications and trainings by business gurus such as Alex Mandossian, Rich Schefren, and Michael Gerber; their own productivity programs; coaches; and clients and peers.

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To read additional articles in the "Six-Figure to Seven-Figure Entrepreneur Productivity Evolution" series and other articles by Monique, click here.