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Clockwork - Book summary

Many entrepreneurs start out with a dream, but end up as slaves to their businesses. They work long hours and even on vacations, are perpetually stressed and constantly think about work. In this book, Mike Michalowicz provides the principles and tools to help you design businesses that run like clockwork, so you can regain your freedom to enjoy a healthy work-life balance. In our free Clockwork summary, we’ll outline the 4Ds and 7 stages of building a Clockwork business that can run without you.

Why Clockwork?

Mike Michalowicz’s goal is to end entrepreneurial poverty. In his earlier book Profit First, he tackled the lack of money. In this book, he tackles the lack of time.

Clockwork is built on a core principle: Work smarter, not harder. Parkinson’s Law says that work will expand to fill available time. When you become more productive, you finish your tasks faster but end up adding more things to your plate, so you end up working even longer hours.

Regardless of your company size (be it 1 person or 100), organizational efficiency is about getting the most important work done with the least resources. It’s not about doing more. To regain your freedom, allocate less time for your business and force yourself to achieve more within that limited time. That way, you can increase your impact and free up time for other life priorities.

We’ll now give a quick overview of what it takes to build a Clockwork business. Do get a copy of our full 15-page summary for more details.

Building a Clockwork Business: The Ideal 4D Mix

There are 4 key sets of activities that any entrepreneur must perform:

  • Personally Doing the work
  • Allocating tasks but still Deciding the details and retaining full control
  • Delegating by empowering staff to make decisions & be accountable for results
  • Designing and improving the overall business flow (while the business runs on its own)Clockwork summary_The ideal 4D mixThe ideal 4D mix is 80% doing, 2% deciding, 8% delegating and 10% designing. Most entrepreneurs spend too much time Doing and not enough time Designing their business. You can progressively shift to the ideal 4D mix and build a Clockwork business in 7 stages.

The 7 Clockwork Stages

Here’s a quick overview of the 7 Stages involved in building a Clockwork business. Do get our complete Clockwork summary in text, graphic and audio formats for more details on how to implement each step.

Clockwork summary_7 clockwork stages

1. Analyze your 4D Mix

Analyze your own 4D mix, then your company’s 4D mix. In our complete summary, you can get more details on how to use the Time Analysis Worksheet to analyze and identify the gap between your existing and ideal 4D mix.

2. Define your Organization’s Queen Bee Role (QBR)

Your organization’s Queen Bee Role (QBR) is the key function upon which your business success hinges upon. In our complete 15-page summary, we elaborate on how you can use the Sticky Note Method to define the Primary Role for each team member, as well as your company’s QBR.

3. Defend and Support the QBR

Every person on the team must protect and serve the QBR as a top priority. Once the QBR is properly served, things will fall in place and people can return to their own Primary Roles. In our full Clockwork summary, we explain how to use the Hub and Spoke Exercise to identify (i) how far you/your team are focusing on the QBR, Primary Job vs other distractions, and (ii) how you can Thrash, Transfer and Trim items to progressively allocate more time/focus on the QBR.

4. Record your Systems

The QBR (and its related tasks) must be delivered consistently. However, instead of using Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which can be laborious yet ineffective, you can simply record training videos to capture all key business activities in 4 categories (Attract, Convert, Deliver and Collect) of the ACDC model. You can read more from our full book summary.

5. Develop a Balanced Team

This stage to “have the right people, do the right things, in the right portions, right”. In the full Clockwork summary bundle, we introduce more tools such as the Job Traits Analysis, and break things down further into (i) hiring the right people, (ii) putting them in the right role, (iii) and helping each person to progressively focus on the highest value tasks while achieving a company-wide balance.

6. Commit to your Ideal Customers

Clarify who your top/ideal clients are and commit to them so you have a singular focus for your QBR. In our full 15-page summary, we explain how to identify your Whom and How to develop your company mantra: “Our commitment is to serve [Whom] by [How].”

7. Monitor your Business

The final phase is to set up your business such that you can monitor it at a strategic level. To do that, you need to identify core metrics that give you a good overview of the business, so you can (i) see at a glance if everything is going smoothly or if something needs attention, and (ii) progressively identify and remove bottlenecks to business productivity.

Getting the Most from Clockwork

In the book, Mike Michalowicz elaborates on how you can overcome resistance to change, and provides a detailed 18-month plan to help you roll out the 7 steps. Your end goal is to take a 4-week vacation within 18-24 months, during which you can disconnect from the business totally and let it run by itself. If your business can survive without you for 4 weeks, it can probably continue to run on its own.  You can get a detailed overview of these tips in our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 15-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.

Clockwork summary - book summary bundle

This is a detailed guidebook with many case studies of the various Clockwork concepts at work, including examples of real-life entrepreneurs who have used the principles in their businesses. You can purchase the book here for the full details, or check out more resources/details at

Read our Profit First summary to get more powerful ideas from Mike Michalowicz!

About the Author of Clockwork

Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself is written by Mike Michalowicz–an American author, speaker, entrepreneur, and lecturer. He has contributed to or appeared in various publications and programs, including being a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal and the “Business Rescue” segment host for MSNBC’s Your Business. He has also lecturered on entrepreneurship, sales and marketing at various universities and organizations.

Clockwork Quotes

“It’s not about doing more with less. It’s about doing less with less to achieve more.”

“The more money we have to spend, the more we spend. The more time we have, the more of it we spend working.”

“Life is about impact, not hours.”

“Have the right people, do the right things, in the right portions, right.”

“Hire diversity. Don’t hire people you like; hire people you respect.”

Click here to download the Clockwork book summary & infographic

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