Eye on the Prize: Why Focus Is the Business Skill You Need Most

Business.com / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Many big brands have fallen victim to losing their focus in an attempt to gain market share. Here's how to keep your vision laser focused.

Everyone wants to be good at everything. But for businesses, this isn’t always the best approach.

“Jack of all trades” is a common compliment that refers to someone with a mixed bag of skills, but when “master of none” is added to the end of that term, it quickly loses status.

This little addition highlights that the title owner, although diverse in skills, isn’t necessarily great at any of them.

And if you’re not great at anything, there’s no point in putting in effort.

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For businesses, overextending efforts could mean losing touch with your target industry, which can obviously be detrimental. It’s understandable that you want to stay relevant in the ever-changing business world, but when you focus too much on diversifying your company, you lose focus on what really matters.

If you lose focus, you lose customers to others companies that are doing it bigger and better in that particular space. Losing customers means losing money — and it’s easy to see how this could quickly destroy your business.

Learn From Others

There may be some household names that you recognize from their respective business heydays that, when uttered now, seem like ancient legends — the giants of old, but no longer relevant today.

Take Sears for example. Back in the day, they were a top household retailer. But then places like Walmart and Target started showing up and taking share of the space. Sears decided they needed to diversify themselves in industries like insurance and real estate to stay relevant, but, unfortunately, it had the opposite effect. Once they started focusing on multiple industries, they quickly lost momentum and dropped down in industry rank.

Originally selling to small businesses exclusively, Staples tried to broaden their focus to include home offices at one point. Once they did this, they failed to be a leader in either space. As their growth halted, they were forced to return to a small business focus in the end.

Radio Shack is another prime example of a business that failed to broaden its reach successfully. When their hobbyist focus broadened into a general consumer electronics direction, lack of focus took its toll on the once booming company. In turn, they lost their status in consumers’ minds and floundered in the industry.

After hearing these examples, be honest with yourself — when was the last time you actually talked about one of these companies?

More general industries also struggle with this issue. Take grocery stores—and specifically grocery store ready-to-eat food sections—for example. Many offer various choices, including freshly grilled hamburger, deli sandwiches, hot pizza and salad bars. But when consumers want these offerings, they almost always pick a Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) over the grocery store deli because, let’s face it, they do it best. Why do they do it best? Because they’re focused.

But grocery stores have another opportunity. When customers think about grocery store deli offerings, they primarily think about rotisserie and fried chicken. This is great for grocery store delis because, if they ditched all the other offerings and focused specifically on chicken, they could quickly become the primary provider.

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How to Re-Focus

These examples prove that focus can make or break your business. To be completely honest, customers are only loyal for as long as your product is valuable to them. If your competition has a more focused approach, you run the risk of losing valuable customers to them.

Surprisingly, not all businesses consider focus as an essential skill. And these are the companies that are often left behind in their industry. When you really zero in on a specific space, you can target your efforts to quickly become the best — and shed the “Jack of all trades, master of none” title.

Re-focusing your business is as easy as revisiting your original goals. Take a look at where you started and where you are now. Generally, the goals that were first laid out at the business’s beginning are focused on one specific industry. Follow your steps back to those original goals to see how you can get back.

Once you’re there, laser-focus your efforts on this one space. We realize that if your business has really gotten away from your original goal, this may be easier said than done. But once you re-align your current efforts, you can also integrate industry trends to keep your business fresh and relevant.

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