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Why a Clear Focus Is Essential to Success

Six key reasons why you should keep things simple in the beginning

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It's great to dream big, but your start-up needs a laser focus in the beginning to get market and investor attention. Google did it with search engines, Apple did it with a personal computer, and even Walmart did it through low prices.

A business plan I saw a while back that combined all the good features of several popular social networks on one site does not do it. Trying to do everything at once probably means that none of the items will be done well. Plus it's almost impossible to craft a message that will make your offering stand out in the minds of customers. I can't think of a company that launched to superstardom with a broad focus. Can you?

Here are the common sense reasons why a laser focus is more likely to lead to start-up business success:

1. Time to market is critical. It takes too much time to build processes and products to capitalize on a broad strategy. Meanwhile, small competitors will appear, seize your business opportunities, and steal your targeted customers.

2. It's important to keep infrastructure costs low. Every business needs some basic equipment and infrastructure, and ongoing development costs. Attempting to roll out the big dream internationally all at once costs lots of money. Getting more money is hard, but not as hard as building the big infrastructure and getting it right the first time.

3. You need to be nimble. Every successful start-up I know has had to dodge and weave or pivot quickly as they learn what their customers really want, and what really works in product design and marketing. Bloated products and the grand unifying theory of everything won't allow you to adapt quickly to market changes and mistakes made.

4. Innovation leads to market leadership. Success requires market leadership in your product area, and it's easy to see that pushing more products and services dilutes your focus and attention. Market leadership isn't a one-time thing, it means continuous innovation, or you will be left behind.

5. Maintaining quality is key. The more you try to do in parallel, the harder it is to maintain quality. Remember the old maxim that "you only get one chance to make a great first impression." Customers are fickle, and good quality and good customer service is hard, even with a focused product.

6. Personal bandwidth is limited. When things become too messy and complex, and even you are not sure of priorities, people get disillusioned, tired, lose motivation, and tend to give up easily. A laser focus is easier to communicate, easier to manage, and more likely to get done quickly and well.

As with everything, there are two sides to every coin. When applied appropriately, focus will result in rewards exceeding your expectations. Conversely, focusing on the wrong things will result in a downward business spiral. Focus on exploiting strengths and achieving success rather than resolving weaknesses and avoiding problems. Don't get burned by focusing on the wrong thing.

Remember that most people can confidently and competently accomplish one thing at a time, and most customers are only looking for one thing at a time. After you saturate the market with your focused offering, then you will have the time and resources to broaden your offering.

Don't give up your grand vision, since no investor wants to buy a one trick pony. But also don't try to be the one-stop shop for all on day one.

Last updated: Mar 30, 2011




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