Or do you have a clear business focus?

Have you ever seen a hare run? The hare's ears go up, and it's off, gambolling along full of the joys of life. Then it stops, squats, maybe it's taking breath. Ears up and it's away again, ..... in a totally different direction. Stop, squat and then off again, at yet another tangent.

Just where is it going? And will it ever get there? Maybe it's happy just to bound along, care free, why worry? One thing is for sure, the hare is not exactly focussed on going anywhere! But is your business? Is the progress of your business like that of the hare, bounding around in different directions, perhaps in response to the latest perceived opportunity, but not really going anywhere?

If you are not focussed on what you are trying to achieve with your business, then it is not likely to be going anywhere in particular.

The dictionary defines focus as "the condition in which an image is sharp, a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding".

That kind of makes sense doesn't it? If you have a ‘clear perception or understanding" of what you are trying to achieve in your business, then there is a fair chance that you will achieve it. It becomes a self-fulfilling objective. When you know your direction you will find that the decisions you make will be made with that objective in mind, even if they seem dreams to others. Because they are focussed decisions they will have a collective impact, which unfocussed, generalised decisions can never have.

Having a clear focus means not only knowing what you want to achieve with your business, but how you are going to do so. And with focus comes energy. Energy is hard to summons when you feel you are going nowhere.

You know what happens if you never chase your dreams? Nothing really. You just go on with life living with day-to-day survival. And if you are simply surviving day-to-day you are not likely to be taking the actions that give you direction and move you forward again.

To keep moving forward focus needs to be found in all areas of your business. If you know your end intention then that intention will also be found in each functional area of your business. This is the ‘how you are going to achieve the objective' bit.

For example, in July 2002, Steve Ballmer reorganized Microsoft into seven business units focused on market segments, not products. Ballmer stated, "We were pretty product-centric in our marketing, which meant we weren't always delivering a higher-level perspective on the value of technology in key areas." The company embarked on a 10-year initiative to reinvent its worldwide marketing team in order to "institute a consistent customer value proposition across the organization." As a result the company renewed its focus on problems their customers need to solve, not products the company wants to sell.

There is a very clear marketing message in that quote; focussing externally on customers, and not internally on products gives a completely different perspective to the business and how it operates. Focus marketing on the marketplace. The marketplace is made up of people: customers and prospects. It is not addressed by focussing on the product.

There are consequences of not staying focused. If you are not focussed it is very easy to be diverted into non-essential, time wasting activities that have nothing at all to do with where you are taking your business. As Real Estate guru John McGrath says, ‘Most business people would be better off if they said ‘no' to about 90% of the things they are asked to do, and stayed focused on 10% of tasks, and clients, where they can add and extract most value'. That 90% leads you into hare-like activity.

Focus helps you decide which markets you will operate in, how much growth you should plan for and how you will compete to achieve that growth. The whole point of the "Vision and Mission statements" beloved of business plans is that they help keep you on track and underpin your overall business strategy.

Your vision should be both a source of Inspiration and a guide to decision making. As a focus it is powerful because it sets your business direction.

A ‘mission statement' provides a clear definition of the business you are in, and keeps decision makers focussing their decisions and actions primarily on scope of activities that fall within the scope of the business. Like blinkers on a horse, the mission keeps you focussed on the track ahead, and not the grazing on the paddock next door.

Defining what business an organisation is really in is a composite of three factors:

  • Customer Groups - who is being satisfied; i.e; your target market (please, not ‘everyone'!)
  • Customer Needs - what is problem is being solved for these customers
  • Technologies and processes performed - how the problems are being satisfied.

If you can clearly answer these questions then you indeed have focus. The danger is in being too broad. The broader you make this, the less focus you will have for thought and action. It has been said that you need to "narrow your focus to broaden your appeal". After all you can't be expert in solving all problems for everyone.

Some companies are naturally reluctant to focus their target audience or service offerings, fearing that it will limit their revenues. Marketing experts say that the opposite is true. "There seems to be an almost religious belief that the wider net catches more customers, in spite of many examples to the contrary," said marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

So is there clarity and definition in your business direction, clarity and definition which extends down through your business strategies leading to self-fulfilling achievement?

Or are you darting about like a mad March hare, heading to one target then another, but going nowhere?

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