Canadian Pizza Magazine

Managing multiple priorities

By Jeff Mowatt   

Features Business and Operations Finance

March 7, 2008 – It
may be a popular advertising slogan – our customers are our number 1
priority. As a manager, however, buying into that strategy will
actually reduce your effectiveness and damage your business. I learned
this the hard way.

may be a popular advertising slogan – our customers are our number 1
priority. As a manager, however, buying into that strategy will
actually reduce your effectiveness and damage your business. I learned
this the hard way.

Over 15 years ago, when I started my
customer service speaking and training business, I was my only
employee. I was doing everything: delivering speeches and seminars,
strategic planning, handling suppliers, and of course taking out the
trash. When writing my lengthy “to-do” lists, I’d always rank customers
as being my number 1 priority.

Unfortunately, it took me five
years to discover that I’d been making a huge mistake. Up until then, I
hadn’t realized that the most important priority should not be the
customer. As a manager, your number one priority should be working on
high-payoff business building projects.


Determining your top priorities

the pizza business, your biggest priority – as a manager – is to
maximize long-term revenues while minimizing long-term costs. Period.

cannot ensure the long-term viability of their operation by working on
“administrivia” and responding to customer crises all day. That’s just
treating symptoms rather than correcting underlying problems.

It certainly didn’t work for me in the first five years of running my company.

wasn’t until I’d made a slight realignment to my working day that my
productivity dramatically improved. I could work fewer hours and get
more done. I had fewer crises and a lot less stress. And my business

Best of all, I found that it was amazingly simple. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I really like this! Here it is.

The magic hour and a half

Spend the first one and a half hours of your day working on strategic projects.

That’s it. Simple isn’t it?

on strategic projects for the first hour and a half of your day gives
you the remaining seven or eight hours to deal with customer issues,
fight fires, deal with interruptions, work on all the administrative
stuff, and even get to your e-mail.

I’m not talking about a big
time commitment. It’s only an hour and a half. But the payoff you’ll
get from that short time investment is substantial.

This is where
the 80/20 rule, commonly referred to as the Pareto Principle, really
kicks in. In the 20 per cent of your day that you work on strategic
projects, you end up getting more done than in the remaining 80 per

The bonus is that these projects are completed faster
and with less stress than by the alternative approach. The alternative
is working on a strategic project when you can get around to it.

problem is that since these projects rarely have a deadline we simply
never get around to them – until they become a crisis, that is. That’s
when we start wasting resources. So, even with a mere hour-and-a-half
commitment to strategic projects, our productivity is enhanced

The key is to start with the strategic projects at the beginning of your day.

The fresh start

why I suggest to those managers who need to find some quiet time that
rather than staying past six o’clock at night, you’d be much better off
coming in at six o’clock in the morning (or working at your home office
at six o’clock in the morning).

For most people with families
and partners, your loved ones may not miss you much at 6 a.m. They do
miss you (hopefully) if you’re still working at 6 p.m.

those managers who lament that they’re not really a morning person, I
have three words of advice. Get over it! The truth is that the human
body is wonderfully adaptive. After 21 days of rising early and
tackling the strategic stuff, you will find that you automatically
start waking up early with more energy and focus. I’ve never considered
myself to be a morning person, yet after just a few days of getting to
my desk at 6 a.m., I’ve found that it’s eventually become second

The key is to ignore your e-mail, phone messages,
straightening your desk, and all the other urgent stuff until after
that first hour and a half of project work. If you have an intranet
calendar where other people can schedule meetings for you, make sure to
get there first and block off that first hour and a half of each
working day.

Once you develop the habit of working on
strategic projects first, you will immediately notice the wonderful way
it feels. You’ll gain a sense of genuine accomplishment. You’ll feel
more in control. You’ll find that you give yourself permission to go
home at a reasonable hour, guilt-free.

You’ll identify yourself
less as a clerk or even as a manager. Instead you’ll begin to get a
better sense of yourself as a leader. And when you work on the right
projects – your customers will view your pizzeria as being the industry
Service Icon. That’s market differentiation you can take to the bank.

article is based on the best-selling book, Becoming a Service Icon in
90 Minutes a Month by customer service strategist and professional
speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain your own copy of his book or to inquire
about engaging Jeff for your team, visit or call
1-800-JMowatt (566-9288).

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