Today, I was reminded of the wise words of a true hero, Yoda, the legendary Jedi Master. I’ll come back to this legend in a second.
One of the benefits of my role is being able to speak to all the great entrepreneurs we work with. I’m fortunate to see what works well in each business and each market individually and also to observe what we struggle with.
I have noticed that many entrepreneurs are great at getting new ideas and great at trying to execute on all of them. Unfortunately, there is a trade-off here. Trying to do many things means a diluted focus. As the adage goes, if you try to focus on everything, you focus on nothing.
Trying to execute on many ideas robs you of the opportunity to truly go all-in on just a few selected ideas and making sure to kick ass in those.
I see this in many different areas, but I’ll give you two examples that I see often (as a self-aware entrepreneur, you may be able to see similar cases for your own business or team).
Example 1: Many entrepreneurs misunderstand startup buzzwords like “fail fast” and “MVP”. In e.g. marketing, they aim to try out many new channels simultaneously in the hope that some of them will work out. A classical “throw it against the wall and see what sticks”-approach. What they forget is that most channels are priced competitively (e.g. most online channels use auction models). It takes both focus and hard work to make a marketing channel work – especially when you are competing head-to-head with other marketers for the same traffic.
In order to win, you need to be focused and bring all your intensity to make it work.
Example 2: Many entrepreneurs go to meet potential partners without a clear strategy. They may only have a generic approach rather than having tried to understand:
- What’s in this for the partner
- How to set up a structured approach to adding real value to the partners, or
- How to do the different commercial options for the partnership compare against each other – e.g. are you better of with a slightly lower price but for a larger up-front commitment? What exactly is the tradeoff?
It takes real effort to really nail these. It’s not something to, back of the envelope.
For entrepreneurs who have transitioned out of a corporate role, the real point here is that a manager in a corporate world will often work on many projects in parallel. Being an entrepreneur, on the other hand, is about building from scratch and we, therefore, need to work more serially. The only way to build up new processes or new functions, and ensure that they can last beyond the first or second repetition is by giving it full focus and work with 100% intensity.
It is arrogant to believe that you can be competitive with all the other advertisers in your market and beat them on e.g. facebook advertising by only investing 5 or 10 hrs a week. Maybe once the “machine” is up and running it can be maintained at 10 hrs a week, but you cannot set it up, scale it, and be successful with that kind of commitment. You cannot expect to win if you expect to win on your smarts alone. Hard work beats smarts when smarts gets lacy or complacent.
The way to build lasting success is to invest ALL of your time, focus, and energy into your project until you are happy with the result. Only then should you think about how to make it repeatable and find ways to be more scalable.
Example: If you are active in Google Adwords and believe that it’s a worthwhile channel to be active in, then don’t start advertising on Facebook, for example, until your Google ads are as great as you can possibly make them. I often see companies have mediocre performance across many different advertising channels – rather than trying to focus and fix each channel one at a time.
To come back to the legendary Jedi Master: “Do. Or do not. There is no try” (sic). If you want to “try” out something new, expect to dedicate all your focus with full intensity to the project for the time it takes to see it succeed, otherwise, you should rather preserve your energy and focus for the projects you are already engaged in.
If a new project is not worth your time and effort, you should probably consider not doing it at all. If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing it well.