You’re busy. There’s a million things to do. Everyone is calling.
Somewhere along the way, that frantic activity has got in the way of you thinking clearly. You’re not sure what your direction is.
You want to shape your business so that it has a great future, but somehow, it’s hard to figure it all out.
Stop. Breathe. Find a quiet place. Turn off the phone.
Take out a clean sheet of paper. Write down the answers to these five questions. And don’t use more than half of a page on each of the answers.
1. What should I stop doing?
Ruthless focus. That’s what almost all of the winners that I’ve worked with have had in common. To be focused, you have to choose to do something more than something else. And to be ruthlessly focused, you need to choose not to do something that you quite like doing, because that’s the only way that you can really focus on the most important thing. So, what are you going to stop doing? Which things are you spending time on that, if you stopped, would have no impact on your future?
2. What do I stand for?
We get into business to make things, sell things, repair things, market things, resell things, reinvent things, recycle things, and more. But why? What principle is at the heart of what you’re doing? Are you trying, with all your heart, to make something the cheapest it’s ever been? The smallest? The fastest? Or are you trying to change the way people think about something forever? Will you redefine what people do in some way – create an entirely new type of product, say? And if you’re trying to do any of those things, then why are you doing it? What do you really, really stand for?
3. What battle do I need to win?
For some of us, and I’m one of them, thinking about business in terms of beating competitors, and being victorious, comes naturally. Any student of military history will recount stories of catastrophies resulting from inadequate preparation, fighting on too wide a front, over-extended supply chains, and inadequate leadership. So it’s easy to see that there are many ways in which we could lose our battle to do good business. But if our business mindset is all about combat, we need to be very clear about precisely which battle we’re trying to win. Exactly who are we trying to convince to be our customers? What, precisely, do we have to offer them? Is our value proposition truly compelling?
4. What do I need to leave behind me?
You could think abut the legacy that you’ll pass on shortly before you exit your business. Many people do. Others think, from an early stage, about the long term effects of the business they run. The difference they will make to the children of their employees. The massive improvement in the lives of the successors to their current customers. Sometimes, long term aims are more important than short term gains. Is that your business? Should you be forcing today’s short term goals into the background so that you’re able to focus on the big long term goal that will be your legacy?
5. Why is this important to me?
In life, we do things for other people. Some of us do an enormous amount for others, and some of us not so much. It’s easy to find other people that need help. But the person that’s driving your business – that’s you – has needs too. Why do you need to make your business succeed? Why is it so important? Why can’t someone else do it as well as you?
Leave a comment to let me know how well you’ve been able to answer these questions.