STARTUP

Why a Laser Focus Is Bad for Business

Lots of founders will tell you that if you're not intensely focused on your start-up 24/7, you're not in it to win. Here's why that's bad advice.
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In the early days of building my company Buyosphere, a fellow founder told me the secret to start-up success is a "laser focus." Wanting to be successful, I took his advice to heart and put my head down and just focused on solving problems and getting to the next level.

When I read, I only read articles that had to do with my industry. When I went out, it was only for work-related and networking outings. I slept, ate, lived, and breathed my start-up. And when I went to bed at night and fell asleep, I dreamed about wireframes and business modeling and everything else that had consumed my day.

I was so laser focused that I let my fitness habit slide. I stopped going out with friends. I didn't watch movies (unless they had something to do with my business). I would not take my eyes off the prize because I was convinced that laser focus is what I needed and any distraction would derail me from a successful path.

What Happened

Unfortunately, a laser focus accomplished the exact opposite.

By sleeping, eating, and breathing my start-up, I put on the equivalent to horse blinders. I also alienated everyone who had supported me in the early days. The myopia and isolation led to many bad decisions and lots of stress.

It wasn't until I was forced to take a step back and recalibrate that I realized my focus was hurting my business more than helping it. I had lost my vision, my community, my passion--even my waistline.

Losing Focus, Gaining Creativity

So I started working out again and those moments away from my screen were the ones in which I came up with the best solutions. I started hanging out with friends again and realized that their work and lives and our conversations provided excellent fodder for better ideas, not to mention good feedback that I had missed out on. I read books for pleasure and watched movies to escape and when I got back to my desk, I made connections between those unfocused moments and my ideas.

Sure, businesses need focus to move forward, but too much focus can lead you in the wrong direction.

I have dedicated two and half years to my start-up, but the best ideas I have (and I've said this before) have come from stepping away and focusing on something other than Buyosphere. You need to strike a delicate balance between focus and a broader perspective when building a business. Working hard is important, but working smart is crucial.

So next time you take advice from any other start-up founder (including myself), exercise caution. There are no absolutes in the start-up world.

Last updated: Aug 3, 2012

TARA HUNT | Columnist | CEO & Co-founder, Buyosphere

Tara Hunt is the CEO & co-founder of Buyosphere and previously worked with over 30 startups, including Like.com (acquired by Google in 2010). She wrote the bestseller, The Power of Social Networking.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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