The reflection was prompted by end of day conversations with daughter No 2.
She was quizzing me about my kitchen table activity when she returned home from work, with perhaps a residue of disappointment that there was nothing edible on the table perhaps giving rise to more directness in her questioning than I would normally anticipate! Our innate relationship with me as primary care giver and her as hungry child played off, as it always has been, by her eleven years of experience of living with a working mother meaning that her main surprise may have been my presence there at all!
So, picture the scene: an open notebook with a myriad of lists, several sheets of A2 paper covered in multi-coloured “Post its”, a pile of business cards, an open laptop, a mobile phone, coloured pens; on and on it goes. For in order to be hard at work we must first lay for ourselves the appearance of working hard.*
*See appearance of working hard here justifying one’s addiction to stationery.
The big question: “What are you doing mother?”
What indeed am I doing?
I was hard pushed to give one single answer to the question and started to recount the many opportunities that I was exploring with a view to hopefully earning some money – by this time gesticulating wildly at my hastily scribbled plans and grand projections.
“Mother, don’t you think you have too many baskets open?”
And how right she is. In my panic and anxiety to ensure that something works I’m trying to populate far too many baskets. My current business strategy to the untrained eye and, now to my keenly sighted eye, looks like an over-zealous attempt at a picnic.
Isn’t this a trap that a lot of businesses fall in to, whatever stage they are at? It just seems more acute at the formative stage when the till is empty. In the anxiety to chase every possible opportunity do we run the risk of making insufficient effort in specific areas and, coupled with that, fail to focus on our core competencies?
Do we understand what the business actually does and, are we focusing all our efforts on generating more sales using our unique mix of skills and expertise?
Are we truly concentrated on this pipeline? Or are we busy creating pipeline options before we exhaust the first?
I’m lucky enough to be only thinking about the application of my skills but extend this to the people in your business; are they using their unique skills or are they being distracted in the rush to find something that will stick? In our anxiety to get the till ringing its easy to fall into the trap of not focusing on our key skills and how to use those to best effect. This may result in a longer pipeline for sales but it will generate repeat sales, which will be sustainable for longer than the quick wins and will help to ensure that the business sticks to its core vision and mission.
I was made painfully aware of how easy it is to slip out of your skill set when I was discussing options around a new website. Seeking advice from a friend in digital marketing I asked the question – should I publish my blogs on a free blog site or should I have my own website ?- very tempting to cut corners and go for the quick cheap fix and try my hand in the digital space!
Simple answer: search for simplicity and it usually provides the answer. Stick to what you’re good at and don’t get bogged down and distracted trying to learn other people’s skills. Of course there’s a caveat; delegate don’t abdicate; have enough knowledge to enable you to make a judgement about whether the job is being done effectively. It’s useful if you can to have some type of metric in place to measure other’s performance, everyone then knows what success looks like.
Good, that’s one less post-it on the skills to learn page!
So, with the guidance of daughter No2, I am now focusing on generating sales in my areas of expertise. Admittedly I have more than one basket open and will continue to do so but have now prioritised them, re-structured them and am trying to focus on one basket at a time.
I would love to hear from others who have struggled to focus and then failed to deliver, found themselves juggling with too much at once or who have moved out of their circle of skills with bad results.
Is there a formula for focus out there somewhere?