Become an 80/20 Account Manager

By | April 21, 2014
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Time ManagementThe 80/20 Principle, sometimes called the Pareto principle (after the economist who first observed it), states that 80% of results come from 20% of the actions taken.

This rule is found in everything from business to personal relationships to nature itself. Lately, it’s been popularized by lifestyle hackers like Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) and management gurus like Richard Koch (@RichardKoch8020), author of The 80/20 Principle.

You’re reading this post because of the second guy. Koch wrote a series of books applying the 80/20 principle to life and business. I just read The 80/20 Manager and believe the ideas in it can make the lives of agency account managers easier.

Here are four 80/20 management principles outlined by Koch, and how account managers can use them to drive their agencies forward.

1. Identify Your 20 Percent

The Principle: 80% of business success comes from 20% of your customers.

An agency account is just like a business. 80% of client success comes from 20% of account activities. That doesn’t mean you should ignore those other tasks you do for your client. It does mean you need to identify the core value drivers.

Which 20% of your actions cause most of your account’s success?

It’s tempting to think that success is driven by “more.” More budget. More time. More account support. Instead, identify the real drivers—and plunge your limited time and resources into them.

2. Leverage the 80/20 Principle Wherever Possible

The Principle: There are always ways to leverage a normal process into an 80/20 process.

Think a great deal before you act. Hard, I know, in the always-on agency world. It’s immensely difficult to stand still while everyone else is sprinting. But careful consideration of a process or problem, and how you can apply the 80/20 principle to it, pays compounding dividends.

As Koch says, there’s almost always a way to do something many times better than how you’re currently doing it. Finding out how improves efficiencies, enhances profitability and leads to massive success.

Koch suggests using the following tactics to apply the 80/20 principle to a process:

  • Aim for improvements 10 times better than your current process. This will force you to consider the problem and find a truly innovative solution that is orders of magnitude more effective.
  • Take successful ideas from other areas of account management and apply them in different contexts.
  • Instead of forcing yourself to draft a completely new idea, merge two existing ones.

The result? New processes that focus on high-value success drivers, not time-wasting distractions.

3. Make Yourself Time-Rich

The Principle: Maximize time spent on high-value activities; minimize that spent on the other 80%.

Having free time is not a bad thing in the agency world. In fact, it should be your end goal. First, we identified the core activities that drive success. Then, we applied the 80/20 principle to getting them done. Finally, we need to invest our time accordingly.

It’s tempting to treat everything as urgent. Don’t fall into the trap of looking busy. Invest 80% of your time into the 20% of tasks that drive value. You’ll not only produce better results, you’ll also create time for the highest leverage task of all—mentorship.

4. Be an 80/20 Mentor

The Principle: Mentorship is the ultimate 80/20 activity, providing ROI exponentially greater than the time and effort invested.

Mentorship is the lifeblood of your agency. It produces highly proficient professionals, satisfied clients, and accelerates agency growth in every operational area.

Even five minutes of mentoring account professionals produces outsized returns. Being an effective mentor is a topic for another post, but this much is true: using the 80/20 principle to make time for mentorship is critical.

Use the principle to further amplify the already powerful effects of your mentoring. When you mentor another account professional, mandate that they in turn find two people to mentor. This makes any time spent mentoring hugely profitable.

Remember, the 80/20 principle isn’t about saving time, though that’s a happy by-product of applying it. It’s about identifying what activities produce the value in your client relationships and within your agency. Once you do, the only limit to your growth as an account manager is how far you press down the gas pedal.

Do you use the 80/20 principle in your account management processes? If so, how? What other ways do you work better, faster and more efficiently? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Source: mao_lini