If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither. This Russian proverb communicates a very simple, but powerful message – the importance of focus.
Peter Drucker, the well-known author and educator on business management, said, “Concentration is the key to economic results. No other principle of effectiveness is violated as constantly today as the basic principle of concentration. Our motto seems to be, ‘Let’s do a little bit of everything.’”
In The Road to Business Success, Andrew Carnegie stated, “And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret: concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means they have scattered their brains also.”
Organizations lose focus in a myriad of ways. Manufacturers can lose focus when they attempt to expand their products and processes beyond their core competencies. Start-ups can lose focus when they try to provide services outside their expertise in order to get business. All businesses lose focus when they haven’t clearly defined their target market, and instead, try to be everything to everyone. I learned this lesson early in my business when I pursued sales outside my business strategy.
Steve Jobs contributed much of his success at Apple by staying focused. He said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
To stay focused, businesses should start with a strategic plan. What is your company's mission and vision? Who is your target market? What are your core competencies and strengths? From your strategic plan, you must craft clear, concise short- and long-term measurable goals. When considering a tempting opportunity, ask yourself, "Is this my target market? Does this adhere to my strategic plan?" By learning to say "no", you have more time and energy to pursue your organizational goals.
The same focus, concentration and analysis are needed by every leader in your organization. Does everyone know the organization’s mission, vision and goals? Does each leader have his or her own clear goals that support the company’s mission?
During his recent win at the Masters, golfer Jordan Spieth was reminded by his caddie on every shot to “Pick a small target.” When companies have clear and concise targets, their energy and investments will be more focused and greater success can be achieved.