The 1% solution: Little improvements yield big results

By Beth Caron

With apologies to Three Dog Night and ‘60s music fans, one might be the loneliest number but it seems that these days, one is the most powerful number when it comes to running a business.

There’s a book that’s been gaining traction called The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results in which successful businessman and franchise entrepreneur Gary Keller (co-founder of Keller-Williams Realty) believes that behind every successful person is their One Thing.

Keller writes, “No matter how success is measured, personal or professional, only the ability to dismiss distractions and concentrate on your ONE Thing stands between you and your goals.” 

In other words, I think he’s telling me to stop procrastinating, avoid the distractions of emails and phone calls and meetings and to-do lists, and identify what my One Thing is so I can deliver extraordinary results. If only it were that easy, right?

Actually, Keller offers some great tips to cut through the clutter and achieve what you want in less time. I especially like the suggestion to create a domino effect: Find the lead domino (the One Thing), and whack away at it until it falls. It works because extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. Keller believes that lead domino can be the one thing that helps create extraordinary results in every situation.

Personally, I sometimes get impatient at the concept of incremental progress, and I still yearn for fast results, but Keller makes a good argument for the slow-but-steady effort.

The number 1 also caught my eye in a blog post that made the case for marginal improvements of as little as 1%—whether that’s a 1% increase in your exercise, a 1% decrease in your spending, or a 1% improvement in a business goals. Pursue that goal consistently, the writer James Clear says, and the results can be surprisingly significant.

This approach hit close to home this past year when Salon Innovations, the Great Clips vendor that manufactures and distributes our branded line of hair care products, offered an incentive to all Great Clips salons called The Power of 1. When a salon increased its total product percent by at least 1%, they were entered to win a salon prize package including wet combs, shear cases, phone stands, pens, a razor and more.

Increasing the volume of products sold makes good sense for Great Clips salon owners because it lowers their payroll percentage, improves customer loyalty and increases salon sales—not to mention that product recommendation plays a key role in delivering great customer service.

Clear’s point is that these small, incremental goals, applied to every facet of an enterprise, are like compound interest—they build on one another and culminate in gains that are far beyond 1%. (That sounds similar to the domino effect that Keller talks about.)

“The most common mistake that people make is setting their sights on an event, a transformation, an overnight success they want to achieve—rather than focusing on their habits and routines,” Clear says.  Making the small changes that result in a 1% improvement is much easier—and more sustainable—than an exhausting push for a 10% improvement.

“So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it,” writes Clear. “Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.”

I have to say that I often do that—set a big goal for myself, believing that a small goal won’t make much difference. But, I’m going to think about this 1% in both my professional and personal life. How about you? What are the 1% improvements you can make at home or at work?

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