Often people make business far harder than it needs to be. By over-thinking our strategy, complicating our product line and worrying too much about our staff.
All of these are important issues, but they pale into insignificance compared to the one area of business that contributes most to success.
That area? Time spent daily on Sales.
I have mentored literally thousands of business owners and almost every time I see a business not performing it is primarily because they are not spending enough hours in the day on the sales process. Either refining how they sell or getting out there and getting face to face with potential customers.
How much time should you spend on sales? Well if you're running a new business you should devote at least 80% of your day to it.
If you're an established business you should spend at least 30% of your day on the sales process or connecting with customers.
Does that sound too extreme? It shouldn't. What else could you be doing that is more important?
When you spend most of your time selling opportunities quickly arise. Doors open. Checks get written. Good things happen. When you stay in your office talking to your staff, pontificating over product details, admin and minutiae you may progress your business, but you won't greatly increase your revenue.
Only going out there and asking more people to buy your stuff will make a real difference in the long run. All else is tinkering at the peripheries of success.
All great companies are great at sales. They grow huge not just because of the quality product line (the world is filled with companies with great products that are struggling to survive) but their utter commitment to selling it better than their competitors. And getting out there and asking people for their business.
Here's an exercise well worth trying: Sit down and work out what the average amount of time is your people are spending each week either directly selling or on improving the sales process. Then set a goal to triple it, starting next week.
Sales should be the absolute centre of what your company does, every single day. Ignore it at your peril. As the founder of IBM, Thomas Watson once remarked, "Nothing happens until somebody sells something."
If you're not happy with how fast your business is growing, this is the area you should focus on, first, second and third. Get out there and ask more people for money. It may sound crude, but ultimately an obsession with sales is at the heart of all sustained business growth.
This article is an edited version of Siimon Reynolds' piece for Forbes Magazine.