By Eric Greene
When I was CMO/GM for a diet food bar startup, we stumbled and bumbled through our early stages. Our key investor (himself an entrepreneur who had sold his prior business for $325 million) couldn’t help but take notice. In salty language, he asked me what the problem-o was.
My answer was something to this effect: “There’s just not enough time in the day. There’s just so many distractions. I have so many meetings, so many commitments…. I have to be over here for this…. over there for that…I told this group we’d do such and such. I just don’t have time to think.”
His response: “Eric, cut the crap. If it doesn’t drive the business, stop doing it. You don’t have to do any of that other <insert expletives here>. You are free to only work on whatever actually matters. You have the power. Quit chasing squirrels.”
No exaggeration, coming out of that conversation our focus narrowed, and our little startup subsequently went from $250K to around $27.5 million in annual revenues in just under two years’ time.
Do you want to cut burnout, stop spinning wheels and drive results?
Work on what counts, and only what counts. And stop chasing so damn many squirrels. This is the holy grail when it comes to your startup. Just identify the handful of key things THAT TRULY MAKE/BREAK/DRIVE YOUR BUSINESS. Hyper-focus on those things, and cut out as much other nonsense as you can.
It is the 20/80 rule. Putting first things first. It is Warren Buffet’s lifetime philosophy that “really successful people say no to almost everything." This has apparently worked out a-okay for Warren, and it’ll work for you.
EASIER SAID THAN DONE, YOU SAY? HERE’S HOW TO WORK IT (WITH A REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE THROWN IN):
Step 1: Identify the true, make or break, key drivers of your business. Chances are, there are around 5-7 of these.
Example: one of my clients is the Founder/CEO of an outdoor gear business – he has a game-changing new product, a small team and limited resources. He spent his early phases burning hours and burning himself out working on too many things with “not enough hours in the day." Sound familiar? Then he was challenged to name his true key drivers (simplified here):
- Nail the product: it must be great, look cool, work right, elicit great reviews
- Produce the product for 55%+ gross profit margins (enables right price and profit)
- Develop kick ass brand and storytelling
- Build awareness, tribe and brand loyalty
- Master digital and direct selling
- Establish sales foothold with key channel partners
Step 2: Does it relate to the key drivers in Step 1? If yes, WORK ON IT. If no, DON’T!
Especially early on, this Founder/CEO was tempted to chase every opportunity, go after every lead, work on every project, try to be all things to all people. This led to a whole lot of wheel-spinning and even more burnout and discouragement.
And then he focused and stopped chasing squirrels. Once he focused the company on those 6 areas (largely ignoring pretty much every lesser thing), everything started clicking. Today, he is fully funded, his product has buzz in the market, sales are growing exponentially, and he will turn his first profit in 2021.
In summary, if you want to grow your venture: identify the handful of key things THAT TRULY MAKE/BREAK/DRIVE YOUR BUSINESS. Hyper-focus on those things. Do what counts and stop chasing squirrels.
Eric Greene is a proven executive turned success/executive coach + team facilitator at the Greenehouse (www.GHouseCoaching.com). Pouring my experience (startup, 3 successful entrepreneurial ventures, former President, CxO, EVP/GM) into helping you work smarter. Lead better. Stress less. Kick ass. And find more joy in doing it.
Squirrel photos by Da Puglet.