Jack Canfield, the highly successful American author and motivational speaker, made the following observation: “Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.”
This got me thinking about the importance of focus in business. The San Francisco academic, Dr Jim Taylor describes focus as the “gateway to business success”. In his view, the ability to pay attention to things that will help your work efforts and the avoidance of distractions that will hurt them is vital to a successful work life. He believes learning to focus better is the single most effective tool to help you become more efficient and productive in the workplace.
However, this doesn’t only apply to the work you actually do in the office. It’s also highly relevant to the way you run and develop your business.
Time and time again I see people spreading themselves too thinly in business. A good example was a recent Dragon’s Den programme, where the two entrepreneurs had a pretty decent concept around baby teething products. When asked why they’d expanded into children’s clothing as well as the teething products line, the entrepreneur replied: “We didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket”. This was instantly jumped upon by the Dragons and rightly so. Her business was too immature to develop into different product lines and the children’s clothing market is notoriously competitive and cut throat. She was advised to focus on the concept she had started out with, rather than diversifying too quickly into areas she didn’t know.
It’s an easy mistake to make. People want to spread risk and they think developing multiple product lines or business streams will offer them some resilience, should one of them go wrong. That’s all well and good on paper, or perhaps if you’re a huge corporation that has enough people, cash and established income streams to research and develop multiple options. But if you’re a small business it simply doesn’t work. You end up being a “Jack of all trades and master of none”; you lose sight of where it is best to invest your time and money and you become unfocused and ineffective.
So my message is to keep a laser beam focus on what you want from your business. Work out what you want to achieve and give it 100% of your attention. Most of the great inventions didn’t work out first time but their creators kept working at them, honing them and tinkering with the prototype until they became the products we recognise and use every day. Think of the inventions we wouldn’t have without that sort of focus; the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine, light bulbs, the telephone, computers, the car, the aeroplane, the internet. These were achieved by an almost obsessive focus on the end game by their creators (admittedly we don’t know that for sure about the wheel, but we can confidently imagine that this was the case!)
If you believe your product has potential and you have a business model that makes sense then don’t give up at the first hurdle or diversify into different areas. Keep going and keep pushing at what you think will work.
Tim Cook of Apple has it right, in my view. “We have to make sure at Apple that we stay true to focus, laser focus - we know we can only do great things a few times, only on a few products.”
The concept of laser beam focus is one that isn’t new though. One of the greatest inventors of modern civilisation, Alexander Graham Bell, made a similar observation more than a century before. “Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
With concentration and focus, anything is achievable.
For further advice on this issue, please call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.