The Most Powerful 3-Word Business Plan in the World

When it comes to three-word aphorisms, “Just do it” is a mantra for athletes all over the world. But every business owner — even those who run marathons — should embrace this mantra: “Do less, better.”

Whether you’re selling spirits in Williamsburg, legal services in Indiana, or running shoes in Oregon, “Do less, better” is the most powerful three-word business plan in the world.

It harnesses the efficiency of passion and drives the focus on the value of your time. It’s only three words, but what lives inside the phrase is the promise of enormous gains in time saved, better output, and a far more valuable and profitable business.

It’s also what saves a business owner from the DIY trap. Yes, a business might start with a little DIY. The first Nikes were inspired by Bill Bowerman’s experiment with a waffle iron. But his co-founder, Phil Knight, didn’t sell the shoes out of his car for long. From the outset, they harnessed the expertise of others and focused on what they did best. The swoosh wasn’t their idea and neither was “Just do it.”

Most entrepreneurs don’t realize when it’s time to pass off important duties, and they get stuck DIYing every aspect of their business instead of specializing. This makes it easy for them to become distracted and divert their attention from their passion.

Running a smart, efficient business means identifying the core of what you do and trusting others to handle the rest. It means adopting the most powerful and time-tested business plan in the world: “Do less, better.”

There just isn’t room for mediocrity in the marketplace. Someone who’s more passionate and more focused will swoop in and eat your piece. The sooner an entrepreneur allows herself to focus on what she does best — and finds specialists for a team that will handle the other stuff — the sooner she’ll outpace the competition and see her business grow.

Nike has been so successful that it’s hard to imagine it as a DIY startup — but it was. It began with just two people: Knight and his track coach, Bowerman. Like most small-business owners, Knight just wanted to make a living from his passion: sports. He and Bowerman devised a simple plan and stuck to it. They understood their Key Activities and hired others for critical tasks that we’re outside of that.

Their first year, they sold $8,000 worth of shoes and hired their first full-time salesman. After two years in business, Blue Ribbon Sports (which was their name at that time) opened its first retail store so employees could stop selling shoes from their cars, too. Yes, they’d already enlisted the help of others for that task before they had a brick-and-mortar place of business.

Business was so good that first year at the store in Santa Monica, Calif., they expanded retail and distribution operations to the East Coast. And they also prepared to absolve ties with Onitsuka Tiger (now known as Asics), one of their earliest Key Partnerships, and go it alone with their brand that was born on a waffle iron.

As we’ve discussed, these partnerships change over time. As the Internet began to change the way people buy shoes, Nike’s developed one of its most important partnerships with UPS.

When a customer orders a pair of Nike’s online, they rarely actually deal with Nike. As Michael Hammer described in his book “The Agenda: What Every Business Must Do to Dominate the Decade,” that order arrives at UPS, who then finds, packs and ships the shoes. UPS also handles returns if the customer isn’t happy. UPS even operates Nike’s call centers.

This allows Nike to focus on what they do best as a company: product design and brand building. That undiluted focus helps them keep their edge in the competitive world of sports fashion, and maintain one of the world’s most powerful brands. Their reliance on specialized experts to execute the details keeps their costs down — and their profits up.

Even with more than $30 billion in annual revenue, Nike is only able to maintain that market dominance because they never forgot the three-word business plan that helped them get there when they founded the company with only a thousand bucks in the bank: “Do less, better.”

What is the one thing your company can do better than any of its competitors?

Identify the key activity that’s truly essential to your business — and what you need to rely on other people for — and you’ll begin to understand how Nike and every other successful enterprise beat everyone else.

Start doing less, better, today at