My friend Joe recently wrote an article about chasing 2 rabbits. Great post and relevant to a conversation I had with someone at lunch today.
It all comes back to focus.
In 13 years of owning a company, it took me likely the first 10 years to recognize that I lacked focus in a big way. Only in the last 3 years has the advice of mentors been heeded. Whatever the reason for the shift, I attribute it to causing the most dramatic growth in our company’s history.
As an entrepreneur, you want to have all of the answers. You want to solve everyone’s problems. You want to know everyone’s concerns and you especially want to not ever have the feeling of being ‘left out’ of anything. You are the owner of the company for goodness sake, something cannot happen of any significance whatsoever without you being at the very front of that thing.
That causes the problem of chasing too many rabbits though. In order for things to happen, you have to delegate and you have to singularly focus on your mission. This mission can indeed change, and will over time, but it rings true that nobody is ever super successful unless they surrender some of what they are doing over to others.
In order to bring clarity to the one thing that will produce the greatest measure of success, I had to move things off my plate. There was a day when I didn’t see writing blog posts as even remotely possible, I was in the weeds every day and chasing multiple competing priorities all the time. “In the weeds” – never a good place to be and definitely not a place from which to lead the company.
Many books have been written about the topic and those authors are way smarter than me. What I know for sure is that I struggled with lack of focus and it took me a long time to recognize it. What it took was years of “spring cleaning” and my annual year-end cleaning of my inbox. Both were noble efforts, but when I sat down and determined that when I did the year-end cleaning deal, I would prioritize it above meeting a prospect for lunch. Clearly I was missing the target. A prospect lunch is far more important than a clean inbox and a client for lunch is more important than a prospect lunch. It all started to click.
If what I am doing this second isn’t getting me to the goal of building the business – I stop doing that and do the thing that is. The 2 rabbit scenario for me was, and still does actually happen all the time. Even this morning I received a call from one of my employees asking if they could shadow a few of my cold calls. There has never been anything that takes precedence over that very question – like when my kid asks if we can throw a baseball. I ecstatically said “YES!”
I am constantly reprioritizing things throughout the day – I am not a long list guy, but there are definitely things that must get done – those things go on a list. This list, however, cannot become more important than the things that come up and should trump it. I just have to know when to set it aside and then come back to it later.
We live in the world that (I think fortunately) is dependent on us being present and showing up for every aspect of it. We just have to be very careful to make certain that those who should get the attention – get it. My focus is on building a company, not a clean inbox.