Why Focus is So Important-- NOW -- More Than Ever…

Whether you’re applying for a job, running or starting a business, or in the process of figuring it all out, focus is your key ingredient. Focus saves time, it saves money and it significantly increases positive results. And in times where consumers and employers expect more for less, focus will be a key ingredient to your success. So What?

I attended a workshop the other day regarding marketing via social media and email. As the presenter went around the room asking each of us small business owners what we do, she immediately followed our responses with a stern,

“So what?”

“Who really cares?What makes your product or service better than Joe or Susie?”

“Until you are crystal clear,” she said, “about what the big fuss about you is, then all I can say is ‘so what’… and that is exactly what your consumers are going to say too.”

You need to be laser clear as to what benefits you bring to the people who are going to pay you. Most of us assume what our prospective employers or customers are interested in. We don’t take the time to ask , and more importantly, listen. Selling is not a difficult process when you get right down to it. It’s mostly finding out someone’s problem, and showing them how you can solve that problem in a way they can relate to and understand. Do that, and you have a sale.

What does focus have to with it?

Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster in any arena, and is an absolute waste of time. Remember when Michael Jordan left basketball to play baseball…this is something like that.  Pick something and get good at it.

For an entrepreneur, focus allows you to target a specific market, understand them on a deep enough level that you can reiterate your services to them in a language that is both persuasive and meaningful. Notice how I used the word reiterate. To sell, you must first listen.

Many entrepreneurs, however, have no idea who their target market is. In fact, they built their product and company on the notion that it was a good idea. The only person they asked, though, was themselves and their mother. This, however, is not strong enough empirical evidence to make a profitable business unless your mother is independently wealthy and will buy an endless amount of your product.

Your target market must be so clear that you could describe them to stranger and have them go pick them out in the crowd of 100,000 people.

Is yours that clear?

A few questions to get the entrepreneurs started:

  • Who is your target market?
  • Can you draw a picture of them?
  • Could you walk to a specific spot to say THIS is where they hang out?
  • If I had to put out an ad in the personals to find this individual, what would your ad look like?

Now, for the employee, focus is two fold. On one hand, in the personal sense, it allows you to figure out what you want:

  • What are your career goals?
  • What type of work environment do you want?
  • What types of people are you interested in working with?
  • Is training important to you?
  • What are you good at and can prove you’re good at, and what do you want to learn? What skill sets do you want to use?

The second part of this is taking it to the streets: who are your prospective employers and what do they want? Who wants to hire people like you? Remember- an employer wants you to do the job well, cause them minimal stress, make their life easier and make them look good. So how can you solve their problem? In what fields and job positions do you have the best chance for success? Narrowing down the needs of key fields and employers, and understanding your unique skill set in relation to those needs is the strong foundation for an articulate and persuasive job application and overall conveyance of why YOU solve THEIR problem.

I’ll use an example to demonstrate why focus is critical.

Imagine trying to find one person via Craigslist in the personals. Your ad says something like:

Professional Woman seeking:

35-year-old Male, NYC

As a result, you get over 500 responses in less than a day. “Wow,” you say, “Look at all this potential!” So you begin to sort through the emails, which translates to 10 minutes per email to read, sort and respond.

Total time= 83 hours (3.5 days)

Next is the interview, which will at least take 30 minutes in and of itself, not including the time to set up the interview and coordinate schedules. You have eliminated the pile by half, leaving you with 250 prospects.

Total time= 125 hours (5 days)

After 1/3 of the interviews have passed, you realize that the majority of these individuals are not what you were looking for. Many are without jobs, some balding (no offense men), some don’t speak English, some only commute to NYC, etc, etc. You now realize your criteria has significantly expanded. So whilst you did not communicate your preferences for fear of “missing out” on someone or simple lack of research (inner and outer), you inherently added 100x more work to your plate. The result was a lot of work, a lot of disappointment and very little return.

The irony is that many people approach their businesses and their life in this exact fashion. They are general and fussy, not truly knowing what they want, but working all the same, and in essence running in circles. So when the interview comes for that job you applied for, you realize they don’t allow you flex time or paid time off, and that is unacceptable to you. So, the deal, as well as the time leading up to it, is dead.

Where in all this is your return on investment (i.e. TIME)?

Your time is gold, and you just exchanged it for a headache.

Not a good look.

So Where Are You Going?

In my own business, I’ve realized that everyone is not your client. In life terms, this means that NOT everyone is interested in what you do, employer or customer alike. Just like in the case of the personal ad on Craigslist, without specificity, you end up with a lot of work with little return, because people do not truly understand what you offer in a language they can understand. The key lays in being specific. Accept that you are not going to sell everybody, because selling is the art of matching a product to a need, and not everyone believes they need you. If you or your business does not fill a need, there is nothing to sell.

How specific are you being in your personal and professional life?

Any thoughts on how you could increase your focus?

Post a comment below-- let me know what you think.


P.S. Here are some cool resources below for entrepreneurs AND people seeking employment:

  1. What Color is Your Parachute: I have the 2009 version. I read this book from cover to cover, and it forced me to discover what I wanted out of employment, and what I offered.  It is great at providing you a more focused and analytical perspective on how to look at yourself in the midst of the job search. With phenomenal exercises and great insight, this book is an excellent tool for both entrepreneurs and the employment seeking to understand what your skills are and how they relate to future employment.
  2. The E-Myth: This book shows you what a business needs to look like to succeed. Most business owners do not understand the fundamentals or the art of building a business. This book is the blue print. Highly recommended for all business owners.
BusinessLalita Ballesteros