Let me know if you disagree, but after a lifetime spent talking to and writing about entrepreneurs I realize the first decision you make after you start your company is almost always the most pivotal.

That decision? Where will you spend your time?

Intuitively, you understand why that decision is so important. You only have so much time, energy, resources and ability to focus. That means, as much as you would like to, you can't do everything. That's a given.

So is this: The places which receive your full attention will do better than the places that won't.

Now, people will always nod their head at this line of reasoning, and will say "of course." But they tend to gloss over something that is a pivotal part of this argument.

What follows from saying you have to decide where you are going to focus is that you must make hard choices about what you will do-and what you won't.

That means you have to say no.

A lot.

"No, we are not going to go into that line of business."

No, we are not going to chase that huge customer. Sure, it would be great to boost revenues, but serving them will send the wrong message to everyone else we do business with."

"No, we are not going to going to expand our base. (Serving our existing customers is where we need to spend all our time.")

"No, I can't serve on your advisory board."

Deciding what you will and won't do really is the most important decision you can make, because every else will flow from it.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine who grew up on a farm.

"You know, we had an expression that described what you are talking about perfectly," she told me. "It was: 'The farmer's shadow is the best fertilizer.'" Meaning, of course, the crops the farmer paid the most attention to were the ones that grew the best.

It doesn't matter what idiom you use. The only thing that is important is that you make a consensus decision of what you will--and won't pay attention to.

So, where are you spending your time?

Published on: Dec 30, 2014