Focus. There are many books on the topic, quotes from successful executives and visionaries, and even a wide selection of funny memes. We know about the importance of focusing, but do we do it? Or, shall I say, do we do it well?
Focus was a key topic over the 13 weeks I spent in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program at Cuyahoga Community College. The national program is designed to help small businesses grow through education and the completion of a growth plan built around a singular growth objective. That means having one specific objective, which is not so easy to define. It’s all about focusing on that one objective.
In addition to championing the need for focus to achieve goals, there were several other valuable lessons I took away from the program that apply to all sizes and types of businesses. Here are some key takeaways.
Your competition is much bigger than you think. When asked who their competition is, most business leaders respond with companies similar to their own. But you need to think bigger. Think like prospective customers. Your competition is who your customers think it is, including anyone that does anything similar.
For example, many people think all marketing companies are the same. In reality, there are so many different areas of marketing, and most companies only do a few things very well. Think broadly when you are thinking about the competition. .
Be clear and concise on how you describe what you do. Try out your one-sentence company description on people not in your company. Watch their expressions, because this will tell you a lot. Do they nod, or do they look confused?
Then ask them to describe what your company does to see if they understood it from your description. Do this a few times, then tweak your statement. Keep repeating until it is clear. Then once it’s clear, share it with everyone in the organization so you are all saying the same thing.
Pay people to help you with your business. This goes for marketing, business planning, accounting, social media, a business coach and the list goes on. Being frugal is going to slow your success. These people work in these areas for a living. They will save you time and bring a fresh perspective, and you can’t afford not to have them on your team, freeing you to focus on what you do best.
Tell people what you want them to do. Often, we think it’s obvious — click the like button, sign here, do this in this meeting, buy my product, send me an email, etc. People are busy and they are not thinking about you like you think they are. Just tell them what to do. And tell them multiple times. For example, someone asked me why we didn’t have a contact button on our website. My answer was because we have our email addresses, and anyone can reach out that way. Her response was that they have to search for it, and they may not think to contact you. Good point. We created a contact button/form the next day, and it’s on every page.
Big business, small business, it’s all just business, and we can all learn something. If you are a small business and you qualify for the 10KSB program, I highly recommend you apply. It’s well worth the time. You’ll learn to focus, and so much more. ●
Sue Stabe is co-founder of Long & Short of It