What’s Your Focus?

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I have a friend who is really struggling in his business right now. He works for himself, and when the phone was ringing life was good. But the phone hasn’t been ringing for a couple of years now, and he doesn’t know how to turn things around. He said to me the other day, “I’m doing everything I can think of, putting in ten hours a day trying to build the business, but nothing seems to be working.” And it’s true–he is doing everything he can think of. And therein, I think, lies the problem. It comes down to one word: focus.


My friend, whose name isn’t Dustin but I’ll call him that because it makes him sound cool, is trying everything–but in a scattershot, untargeted way. He’ll send out a postcard to past clients. But instead of following up on that one card with phone calls, or a series of cards, he’ll then move on to something else. And then Dustin tells me that postcards don’t work. He’ll spend hours fiddling with his web site, or trying to write a book, or doing any number of other things, but there’s no common theme. He hasn’t defined his single message, and so there’s no focus for potential clients to latch on to. To one group, he talks about his low prices. To another, his experience. To yet another, it’s his product line. Ten groups, ten different messages.

When the Beatles were starting out, they had a clear focus–what I call a Single, Shared Vision–and it was this: they were going to be bigger than Elvis. Now, I know that many of you are Elvis fans, and believe me, I’m not stupid enough to try to dis the King! What I’m saying is that the Beatles 1) aimed high, and 2) were completely focused on that vision. That vision was their road map.

It’s true that a road map alone won’t get you to your destination. You need a vehicle, fuel for the vehicle, a driver–any number of other ingredients. But without the road map, you’ll end up driving all over the place, wasting time, gas, and your own personal energy. That’s what’s happening with Dustin. (I think I’m going to suggest that he actually change his name to Dustin. Who wouldn’t want to do business with somebody named Dustin?)

If Dustin would pick one selling point, one benefit, one element of his business onto which he could then focus all his energy, I think he’d find the phone would start ringing again. He’d have that road map, and his potential clients would get a sense of a guy who knows who he is, where he’s going, and how he’s going to get there.

So why doesn’t Dustin pick a focus and work it consistently? Because he’s afraid that by picking one focus, he’s closing the window to other possible work. If he just talks about his great prices, for example, he won’t pull in the people who are attracted by his expertise, and vice versa. And that may be true. On the other hand, he’ll really reach those who want low prices. It’s been working for Wal-Mart.

Your clients and potential clients have to know what you stand for. Wal-Mart: low prices. Fed-Ex: fast delivery. Amazon.com: huge selection.

The Beatles had a clear focus for themselves, and it led them to the top of the charts. Does your team (even if your team consists of you and your cat) have a clear focus? Do they have a Single, Shared Vision? If not, I’d like to suggest that you sit down for an hour or two and define just who, exactly, you are–and what your focus really is. As I told Dustin yesterday, “Stop swerving all over the road; pick a lane and drive, man!”


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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