Have you ever seen Pixar’s “Up”? It’s a Disney animated film, so of course it’s sweet and sad and funny, all at once. One of the funniest characters in the film is a dog named Dug who wears an electronic collar that enables him to talk. When this character is introduced, he’s explaining himself and his abilities to two other characters, and midway through a sentence he stops, looks to his left, and exclaims, “Squirrel!”
We now have a running joke in our family. When someone is speaking and suddenly goes off topic on an unrelated tangent, someone else will yell “Squirrel!” Now why did I bring that up? Hmm. Oh, yes. Focus. Distractions. Tangents. Business.
The Big Idea
One of the most essential ingredients for success in business is focus. In his book “Think Big Act Bigger”, global business celebrity, primetime television and podcast show host, and author Jeffrey Hayzlett sums it up nicely:
“As a business leader trying to think big and act bigger, if you don’t relentlessly focus that ownership on what drives your business, create a culture that reflects who you are, and stay grounded as you make things happen, you’ll never see the true rewards of thinking big and acting bigger.”
Relentless focus on what drives your business is key according to Hayzlett. But there’s more. In a blog he contributed to Huffpost, Sports Psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor writes:
“Focus doesn’t get the respect it deserves in the business world. We hear a lot about motivation, stress, emotions, leadership, and team culture, but not much attention is paid to the role that focus plays in your ability to be productive.”
So, today, let’s pay a little homage to focus. Let’s think about the reasons that focus is an essential element to your business success, and what you can do about it.
What Do We Mean by Focus?
Let’s start from the same page in the playbook. What is focus in the context of business? We could say that focus is the center of activity or interest. It’s what attracts the most attention, be it positive or negative. You could say focus is the main point, topic, or cause that interests others, and often motivates them to take action.
There’s another way to look at focus, particularly in the business setting. Sometimes an organization concentrates on one area, specializes in it, focuses on it. In this context, focus is that limited range of services, products, or business activities. I have a great example.
My favorite burger joint, which started in Southern California, is In and Out Burger. They’ve since expanded to all of California, as well as into Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado. But their menu is the same in every location, and very simple. Their focus is burgers with and without cheese, french fries, shakes, and 4 kinds of soft drinks. No bacon. No chicken. No onion rings. Simple, fresh ingredients. And it works. But why is focus essential for your business?
4 Reasons Why Focus Is Essential for Your Business
Here are a few good reasons why focus is an essential ingredient for your success.
1. It is the “gateway to all thinking.”
Dr. Taylor writes that focus is the gateway to all thinking: perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving, and decision making. And without it, all aspects of our thinking will suffer. Looking at a situation and weeding out the unimportant and irrelevant facts is critical to arriving at the best conclusion or decision.
2. It increases productivity.
If you can weed out what is unimportant and the irrelevant, those things that suck up time and energy, you can work on what is critical to your operation. The more you focus on your operations and making them work, the greater productivity you can achieve. In the In and Out example, their focus on one line of goods and type of customer allows them to develop the highest quality products and most efficient workflow and replicate that in every store for maximum productivity.
3. It helps you achieve your goals faster.
If you’ve identified a purpose, a pathway, a blueprint, or a plan, and you stay on course, you will achieve your goals faster. Often your journey to excellence comes packed with many enticing side-trips. Of course, there are hazards or unexpected hiccups that occur and must be addressed. But we mustn’t allow such events to completely derail us on the forward path. If we can address them in a way that advances the goal, that’s fantastic. We can be flexible without losing focus.
4. It maximizes your Return on Investment (ROI).
Some people come from the school of “throw things at the wall and see what sticks”. That’s when you just randomly or haphazardly try things in the hope that something you’ve done works. But if you’re more focused and disciplined in your approach, you can analyze and record the results of small pilots or experiments, determine what worked best, and implement the most efficient and effective approach.
That’s what I do when running Facebook ads for my clients. By focusing on messaging and images that resonate with the desired audience, my clients end up paying as much as 47 to 87 percent less per click than industry standard, depending on the spend. And they are satisfied with their campaign results.
Back to Basics: 4 Ways to Be More Focused
There are a few things you can do to right now to increase your level of focus.
1. Be aware of how you spend your time.
Whether you want to do a full-on Time Management Self-Audit, or simply look at your calendar or to-do list at the end of each day, self-awareness is key. You need to understand what is sucking up all your time and how it relates to your highest priorities, pain points, or goals. You may find some surprises, particularly if you examine how you spend every minute of your day for a few days. Are you doing tasks that should have been delegated? Or worse, are you re-doing tasks that were already delegated but not done to your satisfaction? A little time focused on clearly communicating expectations up front could help everyone involved.
2. Know what is important and what you should be doing about it.
Do you have goals, objectives, or plans? Have you identified a financial target, or golden number of customers or sales and a timeline for achieving it? It doesn’t have to be fancy. But you do need to know what it is you want. Then set up goals and actions to achieve it. If you want help, CSD Marketing and Consulting helps with strategic planning, social media strategy, marketing plans, and even business coaching when you need outside perspective. You don’t have to operate in a vacuum.
3. Take action.
You would think it’s easy to focus on your journey once you’ve identified the goals and actions necessary to get there. But often, people or events can distract us and we can lose momentum, or get completely off track while attending to them. To the extent possible, include the people and events that need your attention into your action plan by integrating the personal with the professional. Don’t abandon one for the other.
You don’t live in one world or the other—business or personal; you live in both. Think about how you’re delegating and outsourcing. Then consider who or what organizations can help you implement solutions in both your personal and professional lives. And when the unexpected pops up, as it always will, do what it takes to just keep swimming. (Another Pixar reference.)
4. Set aside time to reflect on results and identify ways to level up your focus.
Finally, if you’re going to maintain your focus, make sure to incorporate regular check-ins, feedback loops and progress reports in your routine. What’s different? What has improved? What could be better? What can you do about it? It’s not surprising that your assessment will reflect both your level of focus and your achievement of business goals. Because focus really is a key element of business success.
CSD Marketing and Consulting can support you on your journey to excellence. Right now, we are floating a 10-minute, 12-question survey that asks entrepreneurs and small business owners to focus on their businesses for just a few moments and tell us what’s important to them. We love to take the pulse of our small business community at this time of year and share what we learn with participants. And because it’s so important to us, we’ll be holding a drawing for $100 cash to be awarded to one lucky survey participant.
And if you’re ready to take a deeper dive, to really focus in on your business, and you think you could use some help, we’re here for you. In addition to traditional marketing services, our consulting arm includes strategic planning, business coaching, and business formation services.