Recently, I was listening to a YouTube video — actually, a whole stream of videos, one right after the other — about running a real estate business. Now, as you know, I’m not in real estate, but I do love the business. My boyfriend’s in that business, and who knows? Maybe someday I’ll have my license, too.

But moreover, I listened because of what I’ve learned over the many years of owning my own business: Despite a few caveats, a business is a business is a business. So whether it’s real estate sales or creative services, I learn a lot from listening to other entrepreneurs.

The speaker mentioned something important on that video that I’ve also come to realize over the years: The key to having a successful business is the ability to take ACTION.

Real actions produce real results

When I say action,  I mean REAL ACTION that produces REAL RESULTS — the results all of us business people are in business for — INCOME. Say all you want about how “fulfilling” and “passionate” you are about your work. I love my work, too. We all should enjoy our means of making a living. But if you weren’t doing this for the INCOME, you wouldn’t take the money people give you in return for your goods and services.

So let’s all face the truth — we are in business to MAKE MONEY. As I always say, I can only operate correctly on the foundation of truth. So now that we got that straight… let’s continue.

We can all look (and truly be) busy. That’s easy. If I think hard enough, I can come up with a lot of things to take up my time and energy, and it’ll look like I’m working my business. I’ll even name a few:

  • Spending hours setting up posts on social media.
  • Taking months to create a website… and then tweaking it and playing with it for months to come.
  • Writing and rewriting my business plan… and then editing it again.
  • Going through emails.
  • Hanging out all morning at the chamber of commerce’s monthly breakfast.

That all sounds like business-oriented work, right? And yet — what do you have to show for all that spent time and energy? I’m guessing, not much.

Now I’ve got nothing against social media, websites, business plans, emails, and networking — all are extremely important things in terms of running your own business (and many of my own services provide these things to my clients). But if you are using these important things as excuses for not doing real actions that make money — buzzing around them like a bee to appear to be legitimately busy — that’s a serious problem that can be hindering your business.

If you don’t have money as the result of your actions, then they aren’t the  “real” actions I’m talking about. These actions keep you busy, yes… but they do nothing for the financial success of your business.

Identifying true income producing activities

It seems like we entrepreneurs are good at being busy, but not at being busy doing the right things. You might have heard of IPAs — Income Producing Activities. In my opinion, entrepreneurs have two problems with IPAs. One is simply doing them — we just aren’t doing them! But the other problem, I think, is the reason why we aren’t doing them — we don’t know or recognize what they are. We have trouble identifying IPAs.

Let’s go back to the Youtube Realtor and learn more about his story to better understand my point. As a businessman who formally worked in the stock market, he was already a driven person before he got into real estate. He took his good business habits from his days in the stock market and applied them to his new career as a Realtor. (Remember what I said about a business is a business is a business?) And in his very first year, he made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling real estate.

In any business, but real estate in particular — that’s unheard of. What made this Realtor so successful compared to his colleagues?

Well, he talked about that — how when he walked into the real estate office every morning, he saw people who seemed to be busy. But, he said, when he took a closer look, he found they weren’t doing anything productive. They just looked that way. They were busy doing the wrong things — things that didn’t make money. And he said, that was because the majority of them didn’t know what the right things were.

How incredibly sad is that? People working hard, and yet hardly getting anywhere, all because they just didn’t know. You can’t reach success if you don’t know which the actions to take to get there.

Two steps to make your actions count toward income

So how do you figure out what your IPAs are? How do you learn which actions are the “real” actions? How can you avoid spinning your wheels doing busy work that doesn’t count toward the ultimate goal of making money?

Here are two suggestions that have worked for me… and they are best done in this order:

1) Learn from those who do things right… and then copy their actions.

No, those other Realtors at the Youtube speaker’s office didn’t know what they should do. But the successful Realtor did, and with that knowledge, he was able to follow through and make a lot of money quickly, and over the long term of his 15 years as a Realtor. Now he uses Youtube to reach out and teach others, to further his income even more.

One of those Realtors he mentors spoke on the video about why she took his course. She said it was because she highly appreciated and understood the value of an education. She was smart enough to know that there was a lot she still didn’t know — and needed to know to be successful. By taking the course, she learned a number of income producing strategies that she could implement to make money. She now had DIRECTION. Having that direction made it much easier to apply her time and energy to activities that would truly lead to producing an income.

Before that, she floundered, because she just didn’t have the necessary knowledge to take the right first steps. Can you imagine? So much energy spent on the WRONG actions.

So step one is to find out — from others who are successful and taking the right actions — what your IPAs truly are. Once you know what they are, work them immediately. Focus hard on them. You might not be able to do all the strategies presented to you, but if your days are filled mainly with IPAs, eventually, the income will come.

Be patient, as it might take a few months to get the ball rolling — in my experience, two to three months to see real progress from real actions — but also in my experience, one can’t do the right things and get no results. It’s just not possible. If you kick the ball, it moves forward. If you do the right things, you’ll reach the right goals. It’s really that simple. If you think you are, and you aren’t producing money, then you have to go back and revisit the validity of those IPAs — as well as considering how hard you are focusing on them. Which brings us to the second step…

2) Examine your results and learn from “trial and error.”

Once you’ve been working your IPAs for a while, you can then start to assess their effectiveness. Some IPAs might work better and more efficiently than others. You’ll want to identify the ones that work best for you — and hit those IPAs out of the park — while putting aside the others that don’t work as well.

For example, maybe you’ve been sending out fliers, but getting little to no response to them. They’ve cost you time and money to create, print, and mail. They’ve worked for others in your business, but they aren’t working well for you. However, your email marketing has had a tremendous lead conversation rate, while consuming half the time and energy as the mailers. With this knowledge, you decide to dump the mailings. By doing so, you gain back that time and expense to either boost your email marketing even more, or perhaps turn to another IPA that would be more promising.

By continuously monitoring your IPAs and assessing the results, you can fine tune your actions to be more efficient and more successful.

Take a look at ALL your activities, and decide: What do I need to do myself? What can I delegate? What’s working? What’s not? What doesn’t have to be done at all? What needs to be done NOW?

If delegating some of your marketing activities is the best way to go, be sure to check our services page and see how we might be able to help you concentrate on the activities that really can produce income for you.

Funds follow function

Once you get busy doing the important things — the activities that make money — and leave behind the other things that are distracting you and your business, you’ll find success quickly follows. No more “busy” work, but real work for real results!

The great architect Louis Sullivan famously said, “Form follows function.”  I say, “Funds follow function.” Start functioning to get funds today!