Photo by Andrew Magill
When Charles Schwab became President of Bethlehem Steel in 1903, he made an unusual offer to his consultant, Ivy Lee:
Show my staff and me a way to get more done in less time and I’ll pay you any fee within reason.
Without batting an eyelid, Lee offered to give Schwab a tip in a few minutes that would boost his productivity by at least fifty percent.
Here’s the gist of what he said in the twenty minutes before Schwab left to catch a train:
1. Take a card and write down the six most important things you have to do tomorrow. Number them in order of importance.
2. First thing tomorrow, start working on item one until you finish it.
3. Next, do the same with item two, item three and so on, until it’s time to stop for the day.
4. Don’t worry if you only finish one or two items on the list. If you can’t finish them with this system, you’d never have finished them with any other system. This way, you will at least have finished your most important tasks.
Lee invited Schwab to try the system for as long as he liked and pay what he thought it was worth.
Two weeks later, Schwab sent Lee a cheque for $25,000.
At the time, some people said it was foolish of Schwab to pay so much for a simple idea, and so little consulting time.
But Schwab later credited Lee’s advice with helping him transform Bethlehem Steel, from a virtual unknown into the largest independent steel producer in the world, in less than five years.
In the process, Schwab earned a personal fortune of $100 million.
What do you make of that?
Do you think Schwab paid over the odds for a simple tip?
How do you measure the value of advice?
What difference would it make to your work if you started using Lee’s $100 Million Productivity Tip?