A Twist on the 80-20 Rule

In 1906, Italian engineer, sociologist, economist, and philosopher Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923) came to a conclusion about something in his garden.

He noticed that 80% of his peas came from 20% of his pea pods.

It was this discovery that inspired him to realize that, just like the pea pod area in his garden, 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

He carried out surveys in other countries and found the distribution percentage to be similar.

In 1941, management consultant Joseph M. Juran (1904–2008) stumbled across Pareto's work. He was so impressed, he suggested a principle and applied Pareto's name to it.

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) has become a common rule of thumb in business:

"80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your clients."

In 1980, in his book Success Forces, marketing legend Joe Sugarman offered up a twist on the 80/20 rule, which he says will bring you 30% more profit.

Like the Pareto Principle suggests, Sugarman says that 20 percent of your profits create 80 percent of your headaches.

In other words, if you have 10 clients, two clients will be responsible for 80% of your problems.

They might be late payers, promise breakers, or they constantly eat up time that you're not getting paid for.

Sugarman says you should consider saying "goodbye" to the clients who are responsible for 80% of your headaches.

When you do so, you'll have more time to devote to your good clients – plus, you'll have more time available to take on more good accounts.

By doing so, Sugarman predicts your profits will go up by 30%. Plus, you'll have a lot more peace of mind at the end of each day.

He suggests that you also use what he calls the 80/20/30 rule in your daily life.

Again, following Pareto's Principle, 20% of your activities will cause 80% of your aggravation and discomfort.

Make a list of those less-than-fun 20% and then eliminate them from your life.

Maybe you hate housework. It might make sense to hire someone to come in once a week to clean your house so you can focus on your writing and making money. Or perhaps you hate cutting the grass. It might make sense to hire the neighbour's kid to cut your lawn for you.

You'll have more time to focus on the things that you enjoy doing.

Also, in his book Success Forces, Sugarman writes about six "Success Forces" which have helped make him so successful. I recently wrote an article detailing them, which you can read by clicking here.

Not only do you have the opportunity to read the marketing legend’s book, AWAI is excited to announce that Joe Sugarman has been added to the phenomenal line-up at AWAI’s FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair taking place this October. Learn more about this year's big event here.

And if you’re planning to attend this year’s big event, let me know! I’ll save you a seat up front for Joe’s session.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 4.5
Published: May 26, 2011

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)


This name will appear next to your comment.


Your email is required but will not be displayed.


Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters


Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)