According to some reports, the economy is finally beginning to stabilize. Job losses are slowing, and some companies are beginning to hire, again. Most businesses have been hurt and some businesses are unfortunately closed. Still others are starting. Why? People are seeing opportunity. They identified a need in the marketplace and are willing to fill it.
- Starting a new business is relatively easy. Have a product or service and get people to buy it.
- Staying in business for the long haul, however, takes focus
- Growing a business significantly takes even more focus.
The common denominator, of course, is FOCUS – the ability to concentrate on one thing, despite what is going on around you.
Learning to focus on what is important is key to getting anything substantial done in your business in a reasonable amount of time. Multi-tasking is not focusing. Getting to it when you can – is not focusing. Focusing requires laser-like attention on the goal, whatever that might be.
The way I teach people to focus is by helping them understand seven components of focusing, which will help both in business and in personal lives. They are:
- Who are you? As in what makes you special or UNIQUE?
- What do you do? What are your COMPETENCIES?
- Why do you exist? You could call it PURPOSE or MISSION
- What do you hope to accomplish? What is your VISION
- What do you stand for? or What are your VALUES?
- Who do you serve or Who is your MARKET?
- What roadblocks or OBSTACLES do you face?
Answering these seven questions will provide you with a framework you will want to have in place before taking the next steps.
Yes, they do take time, and no, they don’t make you any money right now. However, it will pay off, substantially, as you move forward. They are the first step in the process. Keep in mind that many people who start this exercise aren’t completely sure of what the answers are the first, second, or third time around. Many people start with general statements. However, as time goes by, the answers are further refined.
For example, when Aepiphanni started, we served small businesses. , we served all small businesses. And we did everything possible under the sun. We learned, over time, that although we were able to do many things and serve many people, there were certain professions with which we resonated very well. Additionally, we found there were certain types of contributions (organizational planning & structure) that we do really well. Therefore, the markets we served changed, and were refined.
Keep in mind that while this exercise does take time, this will be the foundation and framework for whatever it is you are doing. When building anything that will last, you must have a solid foundation. A good foundation and complementary framework is what makes anything survive.
What is a framework, you ask? A framework is like your body’s skeleton, or the framing on a house or a building. They provide the structure for everything else you will do. Think about it: if it doesn’t fit within the framework, it doesn’t belong there. Alternatively, if what you want to add will damage the framework, you need to find another solution. When we talk about framework, we begin talking about what will keep you in place or on task once you have gotten the foundation down. Consider this – once the framework is in place, you can begin adding all kinds of accoutrements – walls, floors and ceilings, in the case of a building. It also provides support for any wires and pipes, windows and doorways. Keep in mind – it will not be strong without the foundation!
When we discuss the framework for your goal or business, we are talking about identifying anything that could potentially strengthen or weaken the business or goal. In business, we use a SWOT analysis to identify them. These refer to internal Strengths, Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats.
For example, Say we were building a high-speed rail system that runs from Boca Raton to the Grand Bahamas Island. We have an understanding of our seven focus questions. Now we are going to look at the SWOT:
- We like the idea
- We believe in the idea
- We need money – but we can raise it – lemonade stand?
- We have no idea how to do it – but we can find people that do!
- Other people will think it’s cool, too
- Who wouldn’t want to go to the Bahamas for the weekend?
- Hurricanes and other natural occurrences could slow the building process
- If we don’t build the tunnel right, it could flood
While this is an over-simplified version of the SWOT, we can see areas that we need to put our efforts into, and areas we need to work-around. Without having an understanding of what we can go really wrong, or what we can take advantage of, we could miss the boat, altogether. We refer to this step as ensuring we are aware of our safety needs and can make good decisions with respect to how to address them.
Using the principals of focus and framework will help you not only set mission-oriented goals for your organization, but also, to push the boundaries of what you may have previously thought were reasonable. Have a strong foundation and framework does take some time and effort, but if done properly the rewards will far outweigh the costs.