Overcoming the most common impediment to business growth
You can see it in their faces. The look of a tired or burned out entrepreneur with not enough time or resources to outrun the wave.
Sound familiar? If you’re currently moving at 100 miles per hour and not accomplishing much, or you wonder if you are doing the right things, or you see lots of activity but not much in the way of results, you and your organization are probably suffering from a lack of focus.
Lack of focus is the most common business problem standing in the way of growth and one of the hardest to resolve.
Peace of Mind
Why is focus so important? Well, from my experience of working with dozens of entrepreneurs I have helped to address the problem, you stand to gain a lot, both professionally and personally from focusing your efforts.
In fact, you can expect increased performance from yourself and your staff. Those, in turn, lead to improved business results, faster growth and increased profitability. You’ll also cultivate happier, more engaged employees. And best of all, you’ll gain peace of mind knowing that you’re doing the right things.
Hardest to Address
Why is lack of focus so hard to resolve? I have dealt with owner operators who have a great desire to achieve a result. I show them specific things that need to be done to get there. Then, about 25 to 50% of the way there, they suddenly want to pivot and focus on something else...
like following the shiny penny...
or the patience is lacking to see something through...
or they don’t understand all the steps required to get to that result.
I have concluded that these traits, the traits that make achieving focus difficult, also make them great entrepreneurs—vision, drive, urgency and a desire to conquer the unknown. Hence, the challenge.
Lack of Organization Focus
I worked with a large U.S. technology reseller taking in about $150 million in annual division revenue. Even though they had been around for decades, there was no focus or organization within their marketing department.
Requests came in from all over the company, their primary vendor, and partners at any time in any format and via any communication channel (e.g., phone call, hall conversation, email, etc.). Not captured in any database, they lacked a systematic way to prioritize these requests.
Some simple changes, including instituting a request process, database and steering team for prioritization, transformed the department. With the alignment of priorities to strategic goals, and realignment of the team from line of business to overall market demand the department is now focused entirely on the principal challenge at hand: demand generation.
Not only did the quality and volume of leads increase, but each person on that team became much more effective. They also gained some needed peace in their work lives. Net, net: When we focus our efforts, we realize better professional and personal outcomes.
Lack of Marketing Focus
Many entrepreneurs struggle with this idea of focus. Perhaps, they reason, they should "cast a wide net" and see what sticks. This is not only the philosophy within their four walls but also an attitude that permeates their marketing approach and efforts.
I need to tell most of my clients that in marketing, it is all about targeting and ensuring that you resonate with that target to attract their business. Casting a wide net is the worst effort and achieves the least results.
When you water down who you are and what value you provide to generate this vanilla approach, you lose the opportunity to resonate with your target for their specific need.
Not long ago, I worked with a small technology firm led by two twenty-something brothers-in-law. They had literally started their company in a garage on the parents' property. Their whole go-to-market plan involved third-party resellers.
Having worked hard to build up this channel, they nevertheless lacked focus both within the channel and on the channel. They had been so busy building their proprietary product that they failed to focus on how to motivate the channel to sell the product.
After about six months of concentrated effort, they were winning "Best Channel Program of The Year" from third-party resellers! They also doubled enrollment and production, all by instituting a focused approach around recruitment, development and retention of high producing resellers.
How to Gain Focus
Achieving marketing focus is not easy. It demands an outside-in, 360-degree, data-driven approach. That means research to understand the customers, the competition and the company. Consequently, applying those insights helps you craft a focused marketing strategy and plan.
Likewise, to focus your own efforts and those of the organization, you must align goals and activities with strategic initiatives. The process of doing so helps you weed out non-essential pursuits. Hence, you start doing only the things most important to growing your business.
A client of mine that had grown her business from $0 to $60 million in 10 years, struggled greatly with the vast number of opportunities for the business versus the limited amount of personal and collective time available within the company.
In her quest to gain focus, this CEO gave a keynote address on, “Deciding to do what is most important,” from the New York Times Bestseller, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.
The image to the right from the book speaks volumes. When you dilute your energy, spreading your activities in many directions, the result is inertia. When you focus your efforts, the result is solid, predictable movement in the direction of your focus. Thus, you accelerate business growth.
Turn on the Light
Failing to focus is like going into a dark room with a shotgun and shooting in the dark. You’ll do much better if you turn on the light first, find your target and then shoot. You’ll experience faster business growth, cultivate happier employees and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are doing the right things.
I’ve written this article as the first in a series intended to help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges most common to starting and growing a business. In my next post I’ll discuss the frequent error of diving in instead of working on your business.