In a recent conversation with a client, he mentioned his next business move was to purchase a bowling alley. His wife enjoyed and was great at bowling, and they felt that at $350,000, it was a good deal. I understood where he was coming from, I, too, had fallen victim to my own ambitions before and jumped into businesses I had no business taking part in.
This particular client is very good at running, building and operating vape shops; he had opened nine successful locations between Oklahoma and Texas and was just embarking on franchising the brand to more markets. Along the way, he had also opened a sign and printing shop that provided signs to his shops and other businesses in the area, along with a product distribution business. Up to this point, this particular business owner had been largely successful, and the small failures that had happened along the way didn't throw him off this tracks entirely. But with one significant slip-up, such as a bowling alley gone wrong with a large lease and a personal guaranty, this entrepreneur could have been headed in a very bad direction.
As small business owners, it can be exceptionally easy to get cases of attention deficit disorder where the next seemingly good business idea grabs our attention and we jump at it like a bug flying toward a light bulb. The old saying that when you try to do too many things at once, you end up doing a whole lot of things poorly tends to be true.
Great businesses are born, built and developed by entrepreneurs who focus all of their efforts in that business on a daily basis. It isn't by accident that good businesses are built by people who literally live in them, at least until they grow to a point of sustainability and independence where they could afford to bring in additional staff and leadership. Success in business requires focus in the broadest definition of the word.
Apple's founder, Steve Jobs, was famous for intense focus. He would define what he considered distractions to his purpose and primary tasks and filter everything else out. If what someone was asking him wasn't a focus for that day, he just wouldn't respond to the email or even direct questions and would go about his business. His intense passion, focus, and drive to build something different rubbed many people the wrong way and created enemies for Jobs and the company, but his focus never waned, and his vision for what Apple could be never faltered.
When Jobs returned to his company in 1997, one of his first targets was to focus an increasingly complex and broad product line into one that could be produced consistently and profitably. He narrowed the large array of Apple products into four offerings for two different customer groups – business and consumer, which essentially saved the company.
Focus in business also pertains to what your business stands for and what you offer consumers. Focus means developing a brand that stands for something and says that you specialize in a particular field of work or products. Consumers appreciate a business that is focused on something, whether it be mobile brake repair, personal automotive injury repair litigation, or a real estate tax advisor, people want someone who knows their niche.
If you are offering too many services or products, and your elevator pitch is a run-on sentence ... and we do this ... and that ... and offer those, it might be time to focus. The market is crowded today for just about any business, and even more so for a consumer's attention when marketing that business. By specializing in something and doing it well, you increase your air time and generate awareness without as much effort. Focus on your core competencies and most profitable products or services – you will generally find it is easier to get customers, and the business will be more profitable.
Focus does not, however, mean that you need to do everything in the business yourself. When you are ready to scale, hiring employees, delegating tasks and building a team, focus is equally important and relevant for a business owner. The focus now transitions to how that scale is managed and facilitated. Hiring, training and putting people into positions of power within your organization requires intense focus.
The entrepreneurs I've found who don't focus on this and simply toss unwanted responsibilities to their staff are often in trouble quickly. No one said that building a business was easy. When you take the path of entrepreneurship, it takes focus from the one person who has the most to gain or lose in the business. Spend the time and energy and give the business the attention it needs to grow into a self-sustaining entity, then you could enjoy the returns of a successful business owner.