The 60/40 rule

Give A Little Bit: The 60/40 Rule Of Life And Business

Somewhere a long time ago, I came up with something I like to call the 60/40 rule of business and life. Don’t confuse this with the 80/20 rule that we always hear about. This is different.

Actually, I have been actively practicing my 60/40 rule for much of my life. I’m sure it is in part due to low self-esteem early in life, or some residual self-loathing from my formative years. That is something for my therapist and I to hash out.

However, about 20 years ago I finally established it as a formal rule. Many times since then, I’ve spoken to individuals and groups about this rule, and as a means to becoming a better employee, businessperson and overall person, I highly recommend following it.

When I speak with entrepreneurs, this rule is one of two pieces of key knowledge that I address early in the conversation. The other is, You will be doing a lot of work for free!

Okay, okay, what about this “rule” already??

There are many times in one’s personal and professional lives when time or money or other resources must be divided fairly. Unfortunately, rarely does one person’s definition of fair equal that of another person. Even if, from the outset, the agreement was to split something down the middle or by a certain percentage, likely one person is going to feel like the other person got the better deal. This may lead to a minor disagreement, a dissolution of the partnership, or sometimes conspiracy to commit murder. I advise everyone to hope for the best, but watch your back!

The 60/40 Rule in Business

The 60/40 rule is really important to business, even more so than it is in one’s personal life. Friends who like and trust you are nice to have around, but customers pay the bills! Okay, some friends may pay the bills. If you have one of those friends, latch on and don’t let go…and always order the lobster! (Please give me their email address and phone number.)

A great example of the 60/40 rule in business is something that happens just about every day between businesses and clients. A product has been ordered or a service has been retained, and for whatever reason, the timing or the pricing does not pan out as expected. This may be because of a misunderstanding on the part of the customer. He or she may have misread the terms of the purchase. When it comes to a provided service, the target delivery date may have past due to delayed action of the client. The project may have been stalled until the client made a payment or responded with feedback on the work in progress.

The reason(s) for delay can be very black and white, clearly spelled out in a contract. But, you’re definitely feeling the tension from the customer. They feel like you didn’t meet a deadline or other expectations.

You can be hard-nosed and point to the contract, on which you’ve highlighted in yellow the terms. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, you’ll probably win the argument—but likely lose the customer.

If you apply the 60/40 rule, you turn it into a win-win.

Give back a little bit, 10 percent is always safe, depending on the overall numbers. Not so much that you lose money on the deal, but enough so the customer knows that you feel their pain. Basically, if you can create the perception that what was to be 50/50 is now 60/40 in favor of the customer, that will go a long way. You’ll get extra credit if, even if the client won’t admit it to you, the delay or misunderstanding was on their part. If you apply the 60/40 rule, you turn it into a win-win!

Create the perception that what was to be 50/50 is now 60/40 in favor of the client, that will go a long way.

Consider that little extra consideration a marketing expense or investment. You’ve just bought some good will and the customer is far more likely to not only retain your services again, but also refer you to other people. That is an ROI that no printed advertisement or online pay-per-click program or social media campaign will never deliver!

Of course, there are those customers that make a habit of raising a stink at the end of a project or sale, no matter what. Those customers are probably takers in other parts of their lives, too. They’re never satisfied unless they’ve gotten the advantage, whatever that is!

You may not identify this type of customer the first time around. If it happens a second time, after the terms have been clearly reviewed, that may be time to consider whether you want to continue the relationship.

Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!

Firing a customer is not what you’re in business to do, it is contrary to the notion that “the customer is always right.” Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Don’t feel badly. Think of it this way: It is extremely unlikely that this customer woke up one morning and decided to act like a weasel to you and you alone.  It is probably his modus operandi, and you’re better off cutting him loose.

The 60/40 Rule in Life

As in business, there will be those people in your personal life that are takers. They always want the bigger piece of pie and when they find somebody who will give in, they’ll continue to take advantage.

Applying the 60/40 rule in life can be a bit trickier—and more expensive. It is not as easy to walk away from friends and relatives with whom you have long-standing ties. You may be obligated to see them on occasion or even plan events with them. Events or projects among friends and family often include no formal contract or agreement, and as has been said many times, a handshake deal is worth the paper it’s written on!

When you really have to draw the line, you’ll be the good guy!

Even still, if you follow the 60/40 rule, your life can be free of the tension and animosity that so often shades personal relationships. That little bit of consideration of time or money ensures that you reside on the high road. This will not go unnoticed and when you really have to draw the line, you’ll still be the good guy.

Do your best and at the very least, you’ll sleep soundly.

Whether in business or personal life, applying the 60/40 rule does not guarantee you’ll always feel great about it. Sometimes it makes you feel awesome, like you really gained trust and helped solidify an important relationship. Sometimes, you feel manipulated and taken advantage of. Remember, it is a marketing expense—an investment—and those don’t always pan out. Do your best. Stay on the high road and at the very least, you’ll sleep soundly.

About Larry Bloom

In addition to being the editor of the BOC | NETWORKING blog, the host and facilitator of all BOC meetings and events, as well as the Vice President of the prestigious Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, Larry Bloom is the President of ATI Graphics, Inc., a Highland Park, Illinois based branding, graphic design and web development and consulting firm established in 1997. In a crowded field of branding and web consultants that have materialized to capitalize on an expanding industry, Larry Bloom stands apart. With 16 years of web development and over 20 years of design and branding under his belt, Bloom eclipses many of today’s “experts” by offering a modern eye for strategy and a “pre-web” sensibility about business and marketing. Over the years, he has helped businesses make millions of dollars by educating clients on effective messaging and the difference between a web site and a web presence. Bloom's "On-Demand Advisor" program offers great value to clients. You can learn more about ATI Graphics, Inc. at

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