Why you need to have a focus on focus

Why you need to have a focus on focus


focus never ends

I serve on the advisory board of a tech startup in New York and was reminded of a great lesson about focus at our last meeting.

The company leaders were being pulled in several new directions — it’s hard to say “no” to revenue — but these activities threatened the core focus of the young company.

“Focus never ends,” advised my friend Rachel Orston, CEO of UserIQ. “Sometimes you need to burn the boats.”

This reference to focusing on the future without an escape plan was exactly the right advice and it served as a good reminder to us all. We can’t lose our focus on focus.

Un-focus for the fail

Some of the most heart-breaking business failures I’ve witnessed were due to an inability to focus.

Early in my consulting career, I worked with an extraordinarily talented young man. There was no question in my mind he could make it as an entrepreneur with his determination and skill. I helped him plot an excellent marketing strategy and it rapidly took root.

But every time I visited with him, he had twisted away from the core strategy, chasing some shiny red ball. To him, there was no bad idea and absorbed any suggestion that was thrown at him. Soon, he was wasting his time and money on a dozen different things that took him away from the core strategy. It was chaos. 

I did what I could to reign him in but in a short period of time, he was just flailing about again. Within a year he had crashed, burned and was selling used cars.

Stick to the plan

focus

Espirian

On a much smaller scale, I had worked with my friend John Espirian on a plan to become known, following the principles of my book. He had identified his story (or place) and was creating new value through a regular subscription newsletter.

Because he was focused and constantly improving on his new plan, John saw steady success and in fact it changed his fortunes in short order.

But then he was offered an opportunity to take over an established podcast. Were there enough hours in a day for him to stay on the current plan and take on a new content venture?

If you’re a small business with limited resources, my advice through the KNOWN book is to pick one content source — written, video, audio, or visual — and stick to it for 18 months. That gives you enough time to establish a competency and an audience. 

Taking on a podcast would mean abandoning this discipline and jeopardizing the plan. In Rachel’s words, John needed to “burn the boat” — get rid of the opportunity and never look back. He listened to my advice and his business is thriving.

Focus on focus

In these two examples, we see how large and small distractions can threaten a business.

I’ve also written about how discipline and focus are the keys to unleashing creativity and new content ideas. 

Of course there might come a time to pivot or even quit but those decisions have to be made knowing that you gave a solid effort and did your best to execute on a focused plan.

Keynote speaker Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy of Unsplash.com

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