How To Define High Payoff Activities

Those of you who know me will have heard me banging on endlessly about High Payoff Activities (HPAs): the things you need to do to achieve your goals. And if you do not do them, you won’t achieve your goals. HPAs are not facilitatory or merely helpful; they are the critical, core, essential activities without which goals will not be achieved.

Define these, and spend 50% of your working day on them, and you will do very well thank you very much.

Some people ask me how to define HPAs. I have to admit to being surprised by this question, but I’ve been asked it so many times now that clearly it needs to be addressed.

If you really don’t know where to start, ask your boss. Or find someone who’s done what you are trying to do (a mentor). Or someone who can help you reach your potential (a coach). These people can be real and sitting in front of you, or you can find them in books, on courses, on the internet.

But let me give you an example from my life. It helps to start with a goal. So here’s a goal:

I will generate £X profit this financial year.

Simple and necessary. I have bills and two cost centres to look after.

So, how am I going to achieve this goal? That’s the HPAs. Goals are outputs, endpoints. HPAs are activities.

Because I understand my business, I know that to make £X I need to work with 20 clients. I’ll get about 5 through repeat sales, i.e. they will phone me. So now I need 15. I need to prospect. So here’s some prospecting HPAs –

HPA1 Continue to write these Pearls (one per week).

HPA2 Go networking (once per week).

HPA3 Conduct an email marketing experiment with purchased data (by end July).

HPA4 Market a one day workshop every 6 to 8 weeks (ongoing).

HPA5 Implement a listbuilding strategy generating x sign-ups per month (by Feb – done).

These HPAs will generate sales opportunities so I have another HPA–

HPA6 Sell and win coaching work (measure conversion rate of prospects to clients; track average client profitability) (as required).

And this of course produces another HPA –

HPA7 Delivery of coaching service to clients (as required).

Then there’s an HPA all of us should have –

HPA8 Plan and Review (quarterly, monthly, weekly).

An HPA must have a measure associated with it. “Go networking” is insufficient. “Go networking once per week” is better. “Go networking once per week and generate one lead per week is even better.” I could take that further.

Eight HPAs. That’s it. HPAs 1 to 5 generate leads. If they generate insufficient leads for the effort involved, I will change them or scrap them.

All of these leads, with a known conversion rate and a running calculation of average profitability per client will tell me with a good deal of certainty if I am going to achieve my goal.

There are other things I could do that might facilitate goal achievement – have a spectacular website, write numerous marketing pamphlets, hone my services until they shine etc  – but are they essential, core and critical? I don’t think so but there’s a bit of judgement required here between what’s an essential HPA, and what’s merely facilitatory.

Do the essential first and if you have some time over, do more of the essential – never get to the facilitatory.

Spend 50% of your time on HPAs – all of them mind, not just the ones you like. How much time you spend on each is a judgement call. HPA8 is your satnav and will correct you as you go along.

A small subtlety about HPAs – they need to be done. But not necessarily by you. If you have an HPA you are not skilful or confident about, delegate it or outsource it. If you cannot do that; get skilful, then competent, then confident. An unaddressed HPA will severely limit your chances of success. Be honest with yourself.

HPA8 is critical – planning and reviewing. Take time out every quarter to look at purpose and direction (strategy). Every month to make sure the short term (6 to 12 months) is on track. Every week to manage the forthcoming week and make sure you’re at 50% productivity.

I hope that helps.

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3 Responses to How To Define High Payoff Activities

  1. Sharon Hanner July 26, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    Yes defining HPAs I find to be the hard part!
    Your article helps – stating the obvious and keeping things in sight and under review certainly assists with focus and ultimately achieving those goals!

  2. Phil Tapsell July 26, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Thanks Mark. Excellent advice as always. Hope you won’t sue me for using this and previous material with my clients!! :)
    Great that you are helping us to support MAG ( Manchester too.


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