Oct 21, 2009

Focus: Starting A Business

Utilizing the power of FOCUS is key to starting a company or launching a product successfully.

If you're an idea person, as many entrepreneurs tend to be, you're likely at some point to attempt starting a business. Hey, it's challenging, it's fun, there's a thrill in the success, and well, there's also a bummer downside. But, nevertheless, if that spirit is inside you, there's probably nothing you can do to fight the urge.

Now, if you're like me, an idea person with so many ideas it is hard to keep up with them all, then your biggest challenge in starting a business might just have to do with FOCUS!

Yep, I'm admitting it. Sometimes a blog is the best therapy. But, seriously, if you notice friends comment that you have ADD (attention deficit disorder) and/or say "maybe you ought to focus" you just might consider they might be giving you words of wisdom.

Starting a business requires FOCUS!

For example, when I launched my first website, AspireNow, I had someone tell me to focus on just one thing, and do it well. I ignored her advice. While some other websites launched at the same time as AspireNow thrived, AspireNow struggled in the early years. I think if I'd done a better job with my focus, I'd probably have succeeded with that website much sooner.

I recently helped an entrepreneur launch a large digital screen network in California. One of the challenges we faced was myriad ideas from the entrepreneur that caused distraction amongst the sales team and made it difficult to sell what we needed to sell. Again, this was an issue of focus.

If you focus properly on what must be done now to win, you will often succeed where others may fail. Do you need every bell and whistle? In 1901, Henry Ford founded the Cadillac Motor Company. This company tried to be the most luxurious car, with all the bells and whistles, and failed (although pieces of this company later bacame part of General Motors).

During a time when most automobile manufacturers were selling all kinds of odd cars, Henry Ford later chose to focus on ONE DESIGN, ONE COLOR, for ONE TYPE OF CAR (part of the reason for the color, black, was because Ford ran into a bottleneck producing paint that could dry fast enough).

Ford later became the number one automobile manufacturer in the world. Why do you think that was? I think it had a lot to do with focusing in on doing one thing and doing it the best.

How about you? What are you selling? Can you tell me in thirty words or less? When you tell me, do you know for sure that I will understand what you're selling? Are you focused enough to execute on that promise?

Henry Ford focused on producing one car so well his ideas on manufacturing automation became known by 1914 as "Fordisms" and today Ford is a $146 Billion company with over 200,000 employees, producing over 5.5 million automobiles.1 And, although Ford Motor Company is experiencing decline over the past ten years, part of their plan to get back to a top position is to simplify and re-focus. Do you think focusing might help you, too?

When Sara Blakely formed Spanx (initially a form of hosiery products for women without the feet), she created a number of product innovations, but mainly focused on creating a new type of hosiery addressing a market that wanted to wear hose to give them shape, but not hose with FEET. I'm sure if I was a woman, I'd want Spanx, too, because I hate having my feet covered!

(left: photo courtesy of Spanx.)

If you're starting a business, I strongly success you FOCUS on ONE THING and do it very, very well. Do it to the best of your ability. After that one thing is thriving, maybe then add on that other swanky idea. In the meantime, why not just keep an "idea journal" to store all this fancy thoughts?

If you're failing, re-write your business plan, and re-focus. With your new focus ought to come a rejuvenation in your success.

If you're not sure what to focus your energy on and where to direct your clients, let me ask you a simple question: "What do you want clients to remember you for?" In the case of Henry Ford, it was a great, simple, well-built car you could rely upon. If it's your website, it might be "a great, simple, well-designed site you can easily navigate" (with the added clarity of what "type" of site, for sure!).

See how you can simplify, build quality, price, and product into your description in as few words as possible. Then, run it by a few clients, or potential clients, and see how they react. Test it out. As your employees what they think of it. Get feedback, then focus on what you choose. Stay with it for an extended period of time, and prove you can succeed with what you know will win.

Let me know what you're going to focus on - I love to know what entrepreneurs are doing! If you're looking for someone to review your business and see how you might simplify, I'd be happy to help. Drop me a note and we'll schedule a half hour or hour for us to review what you've got going on. I've done it for others and their business thrived after these meetings, so I am confident you'll benefit, too!

In the meantime, make a sign with "FOCUS" as the key word. Cut it out and post it places (like the fridge, by your computer, in your car, etc.) to remind you of the importance of this key to success in starting a business.

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1 Ford information courtesty of Wikipedia

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