If you're not familiar with it, generally, the 'hedgehog principle' is the idea that your company should narrow down what you're really good at and do that. Only that. Do it better than anyone else can and stay focused on it. Make sure that whatever that thing is, it drives your decision-making.

In other words, if you're McDonalds, don't sell cars. Do what you do and do it well.

The jury may still be out on whether that's good business advice overall--I tend to think it is. But when it comes to startups, I think it is doubly sound strategy.

Most entrepreneurs are full of energy and ideas. They're always thinking of new things and seeing ways to improve their products or markets. The combination of ideas and energy is partly what makes them successful.

But it can be at odds with the hedgehog idea. Focus and simplicity don't always go hand in hand with big, new ideas and manic energy. I know what I'm talking about when I say it can be a challenge to get an entrepreneur to stick one good idea at a time and invest the time it takes to make that idea really, really work. Entrepreneurs like shiny objects.

Serial Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, Josh Felber gets it. He told me mission one was, "Focus your ideas on creating massive value for your clients."

That's why finding your thing--your hedgehog--is great startup advice.

New business are like new animals. They may grow into lions or alligators or hedgehogs but when they first start they are pretty vulnerable. Lack of funding, competition reaction or poor planning can kill a baby business overnight.

Getting entrepreneurs and members of their startup teams to be clear about what their product is or does best is important. They should ask and answer: What one thing sets this apart? That's important to understand not just for the hedgehog idea but overall--for investing, marketing and adapting.

At the same time, a narrow focus will keep startup leaders from working on problem #9 when they don't have a solution for the next challenge--problem #3. This really happens--I was advising a promising entrepreneur once who was spending time exploring Chinese franchise rights before he'd finished the specifications on his prototype.

I like the spirit but that's not a winning strategy.

If anyone in a business setting should be clear about what one thing they do--and will do--better than others it's entrepreneurs launching startups.

You could make the case (and I'm not suggesting it) that McDonalds can afford to play around with things like pizza delivery and yogurt bars. If they're wrong, they can absorb the hit. A basement, family-funded startup can't. If ever the phrase "less is more" applied in business, it's here.

It's great that you want to conquer the world before your yoga class. Go get 'em. But my advice is and has been to be clear about your mission, your goal and your top, unquestioned business priority. Work on that--then go to yoga. You're going to need it.

Published on: Oct 26, 2014