An Idea Worth $400,000

I thought you would like this story about Charles M. Schwab and the business consultant Ivy Lee. It has been retold many times, including by Earl Nightingale, author of the classic audiobook “The Strangest Secret.”

Charles M. Schwab was one of the richest men in the world. His business interests included being president of the Bethlehem Steel Company. One day in 1918, Schwab arranged a meeting with a highly-respected productivity consultant named Ivy Lee. As the story goes, Schwab brought Lee into his office and said, “Show me a way to get more things done.”

“Give me 15 minutes with each of your executives,” Lee replied.
“How much will it cost me?” Schwab asked.
“Nothing,” Lee said. “Unless it works. After three months, you can send me a check for whatever you feel it’s worth to you.”

During his 15 minutes with each executive, Lee explained his method for achieving peak productivity:

  1. At the end of each working day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
  2. Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
  3. When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
  4. Approach the rest of your list in the same way. Don’t worry if you’ve only finished one or two by the end of the day; the others can wait. If you can’t finish them all by this method, you could not have finished them with any other method.
  5. Repeat this process every working day.

Schwab and his executive team at Bethlehem Steel gave it a try. After three months, Schwab was so delighted with the progress his company had made that he called Lee into his office and wrote him a check for $25,000 (equivalent to around $400,000 in today’s money).

FYI: We’ve recently updated our list of free legal resources for group reorganisations, intercompany agreements for transfer pricing and property investment structures.. You can see the full list here.