Wynn-ing Ways: Focus on the Vital Few to Achieve Better Outcomes

Where do we start?

I’ve thrown a lot at you with discussions of physics, history, psychology, gambling, evolution, and economics—all of this to help you understand a different way of finding your Wynn-ing Ways.

When I’m overwhelmed, I always go to the vital few.

Recently, we had to use this with our family business. I won’t go into all the details, but it is 102 years old, and some things haven’t changed since the first owner.

I came in to improve the business’s performance and change momentum quickly, so I focused on understanding the vital few—the things we sold that made the most money.

The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the results come from 20% of the activity. This principle identifies the most effective part of a power-law distribution.

I talk about power-law distributions a lot in Advantage.


Because a power-law distribution defines the entire publishing market.

I digress…

Back to the vital few.

By applying the Pareto principle to itself, 20% of the 20%, can we find the vital few of the vital few and deliver more of what we want?

That would mean we only need to be focused on 4% to get 64% of the results

20% of 20% = 4%

80% of 80% = 64%

I started with the 4% of parts that delivered 64% of the results—less than 140 produced over 60% of our revenue.

If I had them in stock, I reduced the number of lost sales.

 I satisfied more customers.

If I stocked them in the right places, my staff took less time to restock.

If I priced them right, I made more money.

See how getting to the essentials can have such a significant impact?

Do you know what the 4% is of your success?

As you build out your business system, what is the 4% that causes 64% of the results?

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I would argue the equivalent in the publishing industry is the launch of a good book.

Yes, there are ways to leverage beyond that, but the results are marginal without the most critical regular launch of a book that delights readers.

I often hear authors say I want to level up. I’ve hit a plateau and can’t seem to break through this new ceiling.

They look for some new gambit.

I suggest it’s doing more of or a better job in the vital few.

Unsuccessful authors have difficulty believing that successful authors are doing so well by just writing and launching books. They want to believe there is some secret or that these authors are scamming the system to do so well.

This again goes back to how cumulative advantage works and how it’s amplified in the market.

This week, take the time to assess your business. Reach out to a fellow author and discuss the vital few of publishing.

Write to me with your ideas on the one or two things that drive funds or fans the most for you*.

When you know your vital few, focus on building suitable systems to optimize the few.

I bet it’s not making Instagram posts three times a day.

The vital few have the most impact, or they happen so often that they have the most impact.

In our homebrewing business, the other 36% of sales come from 3,360 parts. Each one is important but has a much lower impact on customer satisfaction and profit—a lot of work—little impact.

As you begin to build your system, look to the vital few. Where is the leverage to funds and fans?

Cast that critical eye and understand where you can get the most from the least effort. This isn’t about being lazy—quite the opposite.

It’s about the conservation of energy and compounding advantage.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” ~Bruce Lee

Applying the vital few to your business

Getting the most important stuff right drives results. Here’s the crazy thing: The essential element for an author’s business is storytelling.

The product needs to be a good story.

The marketing needs to be a good story.

The advertising needs to be a good story.

Why do we complicate things?

Rather than looking for something different to do, look at how you’re communicating through story what your experience will be.

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When wondering about good copy for an ad, ask yourself if it can be a compelling story, a piece of flash fiction that gets the potential reader to feel for your character. Use curiosity and the tools you use to get a reader to turn pages in your communications.

How are you bringing a reader into your story world and experience? Make them the center of your story world.

Distill your business to the vital few and focus on how to optimize them.

Then, build a process that repeats that vital activity with little effort on your part. This is how you scale the vital few.

Something like creating email automation to promote read-through. Once it’s done, that large chunk of effort is divided among every reader who goes through the process, which gives you a better return on your work.

Identify performance indicators. In the case of a sequence to get better read through track read through.

Finally, mark in your calendar dates to review these vital few. This is where you act as the observer/optimizer, seeking improvements in the system and learning from your operations.

Remember, if the item is one of your vital few, even a tiny improvement has compounding returns. Improve that four percent, and you leverage results by 64%!

The vital few also give you your time back. How so?

You plan to work on the vital few. If you find yourself looking to do things that you’ve not identified as the vital few, ask yourself these questions:

If not one of my vital few, then is this important and urgent?

If yes, then do it.

Is it taking time away from working on the vital few?

If yes, then DON’T do it.

If you find you have more time, don’t try and fill it with busy work. Either work on the vital few or relax and take care of yourself with some me-time.

*If you notice the past few articles, I’ve asked you to email me. Sure, this helps my email engagement, but it has an experiential purpose. 

Those who write will get clarity in their ideas through writing, and by emailing me, they will subconsciously feel a responsibility to act. 

If you’re unwilling to take the time to think through how to apply these ideas to your business and see if I will give you some specific recommendations, how do you expect your business to change?

Read: Create an Engaging Experience that Attracts and Nurtures Readers