Opportunity is everywhere. Time is finite. Where do you focus your attention?
One of the best ways to think about this comes from Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great. He identified through meticulous research what differentiates truly outstanding companies from those that are merely good.
Put simply, spend your time and energy on activities that:
- You are deeply passionate about
- You can be best in the world at
- Drive your economic engine
Don’t just do things that meet one or two of these criteria. Focus on activities that hit all of them at once.
Find things that push your buttons. Things that get you fired up and make you want to do something. Don’t try to fake it or create passion where it ain’t. Humans are emotional creatures and having a genuine fire in your belly shines through in everything you do. This authenticity attracts others to your cause, and makes you more determined and resilient than the next person. Besides, life’s too short to spend time doing something you don’t really care about.
Focus on stuff you can genuinely be the best at. What do your unique capabilities, culture, and experience give you a distinct edge at? Be tough on yourself here – it’s not about what you’d like to be good at, or what you are above average at. It’s about understanding what you can be outstanding at, and having the discipline to stop doing all the other stuff. The opportunity cost of not focusing on what sets you apart can be huge.
What drives your profitability? It’s not about how good your industry is …plenty of people make great money in struggling industries. It’s about superior insight into what matters. Collins suggests thinking about "profit per x", and identifying the right x for your situation. Examples might be profit per customer, per site visit, per employee, or something else again. Pick a few candidates, and think about how you would run your business if this was the sole measure. And remember, subtle differences in x can lead to profound differences in activities and results.
Startups are often rich in passion but don’t always understand what they can be best in the world at or what actually drives their economics. Following the latest or hottest trend or relying on the same-old business model as everyone else makes you fairly average. And average ain’t pretty when we’re talking startup ventures…
So, focus on the right things: Passion. Excellence. Economics.
Don’t settle for less than all three at once.