“Focus, Damn It!” Shouted the Business Coach

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
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We have all heard it in the movies or seen it before somewhere: the boisterous coach shouting at the slackening athlete “Focus, damn it! Focus or we lose!”

The scene in the movie “Jerry Maguire” where athlete Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding) demands repeatedly that Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) “Show me the money!” is an example of focused attention gleaning a desired outcome.

We know focus is vital in achieving anything worthwhile, but this is especially true in business where the stakes are high. Without pinpoint focus of what you stand for, your business will fade into oblivion.

We all know what focus is. It happens before we go on holidays and just need to get the important stuff done. You find it easy to put all those secondary things aside, either to get done later, or more likely to not get done at all (which is perhaps the best for them). Transfer this sort of concentrated focus onto what you want to do with your business.

Focus doesn’t mean trying to capture the whole market; quite the opposite, actually. No business is likely to capture a whole market even Google has not done it completely, and even with that example, is your business a “Google” in your industry?

Be happy being in your current position and drill down into the core of what you want to stand for. Lay all other ambitions aside, at least until you have that primary single focus established. Even when you are ready to spread your services out to a wider field, going for a significantly different business area can be very dangerous. Do it incrementally with expansions directly related to your initial primary field of endeavour.

Once you have your chosen focus, stay concentrated on that, like a tiger hunting prey. Everything about you and your business must reflect this single-minded and selfish focus including your media, and the attitude, actions and words used by you and your staff. One single staff member who is not on board will sabotage this focus by their indifference. Staff can feel special if they feel they are really part of standing for something.

A clear position and focus gives everyone incentive to go out and promote on their own accord. They will know what to say and what to emphasize. This will be a huge boost to your business, and prospects will hear repeated important words and messages and know exactly what you stand for.

Almost the opposite of focus is believing you have a ‘me-too’ business like everyone else, and your only leverage is pricing. This may seem logical, but logical pricing is not smart pricing; the winners in business have shown us this over and over. Research has shown that companies selling on differentiation always won over companies which competed on price alone. Emotion and differentiation sells (backed by focus), logic only justifies the sale.

There is nothing new or unique about pricing. Most prospects have two cheaper options than your low price: do it themselves, or don’t do it at all.

Focus is not about pricing. It’s about your single message. You’ve worked tirelessly on it, you’ve honed and polished it, you’ve saturated it through your business and relentlessly educated your staff about it. Now it is ready to be called your own. It’s your brand, your focused essence for the world to see.

Your brand comes from your focus, which comes from your story. People remember the singular, unique, sensory and outstanding. They also remember a story. A prospect talking to a partner about an exciting new company they have found will relay the information easily when they are provided with a good story with a memorable brand. Focus to differentiate by combining a singular, unique, sensory and outstanding story into your brand.

Your company name is also part of your brand. Do you want to be generic, forgettable and meaningless, using a monogram like ABC Architects (exceptions are IBM and GE, but are you that great?) Also, using shallow statements of obvious value, like “we have happy customers” or “service is our catch-cry,” or calling yourself something obvious like Creative Designers will be just as forgettable because creative design is what is expected of a design firm anyway.

Take for example the company called NameLab, which specialises in naming companies and products. Their name alone tells a whole unique story. Federal Express is another great example of a name on its own which conjures up images of national importance and patriotism (Federal) and historical significance (the Pony Express). Even the colours of red, white and blue of Federal Express support this memorable brand and story.

Use intense focus to create your brand, and then use the brand to further concentrate your focus. Never stop this intensity of focus. The company and its people must live up to the brand by focusing on it. This requires continual effort and training, but it will be worth it as it will become an easily accessible source of integrity for everyone to grasp.

A reputable and established brand is easier to market and sell, providing a short-cut for time challenged prospects (as the old saying goes, “no one ever got fired for using IBM.”) The brand has the power to do more and go further. It is a form of warranty, and it is a promise which will hit the prospect with goodwill at an emotional level and they won’t have to think too much about the detail you provide because it is always an expected part of a service anyway.

Your effort to focus will reward you with the establishment of your memorable brand, which then provides you and your team with fuel for more focus. There is no limit to this sort of intensity as once it is established it can be reused, refined and redeveloped to aid business growth. This growth will now be easier because you have the platform to build off.

All the initial hard work will have been done and you can just follow the formula you developed through focus.

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