The #1 Mistake I Made Going From Full Time Employee To Entrepreneur
Just the other day, someone asked me what “results” are for my clients. In thinking about it, I asked myself which clients get huge, like 1500%, ROI and which don’t.
When I looked at my client results… across the board, I could see lift occurring for almost every single client.
But me being me… I dug a bit deeper. Looking at the varying results from 1000% or more growth to nearly stagnant — one factor kept coming up.
This one thing made all the difference.
I saw this difference repeated in the boardrooms of global companies and the living room of a startup.
It’s likely the same darn thing keeping YOU up at night.
The question that always plagued owners, CMOs and the executive team — is this going to work?
Sure, we get the question. It’s an obvious one. But I can’t tell you how many times I have told a CEO that a new advertising campaign won’t pay off in one month. It’s the same call I’ve answered after a $500k TV commercial ran, no, you are likely not going to make a sale tonight from this ad.
Impatience. Worry. Fear.
They are three bad words in both life and in business.
You can’t ever flawlessly get from point A to point B without struggle.
So why does everyone want that to be part of their story?
The single greatest barrier to big results and big impact for companies of every size is simply this: they can’t wait out the results they want because when they don’t happen right away, they change their focus.
From The Beginning
A successful business is 100% resolute on what problem they wish to solve, and 100% united in the fastest and most measurable path to get there.
You want results? Don’t change the end game and don’t shift gears until you get there. Then move on.
Not sure how this applies just yet? Let me tell you a story that I’ve seen more times than I can count.
Let me go back to when I first started my own agency. Oh… the mistakes I made. For good or bad, mistakes are how we learn. I learned a lot.
But one mistake… the biggest mistake… ultimately showed me the biggest secret to success.
You see, early on, I took on clients who were in their early stages… barely successful and desperate to make more money.
We’d often start with handling their social media. And soon, too soon, they were throwing more projects at us.
Desperate to make more money. It was almost always the same: “We need this yesterday.” And the list of wants and needs usually went something like this…I desperately need all of these items to grow my business and start selling more products.
They asked for:
- A website
- A mobile app
- A content overhaul
- A video strategy
What about Pinterest? Or Twitter? Or tell me how I can be successful with TikToc? And then they calm down and say…really…it’s email! we need email retargeting system.
But the thing was, they were often just focused on tactics they thought would work, versus the very things that make a business succeed: a very good solution to a very focused problem.
So instead of starting there, they were panicked that all these tactics might not be the silver bullet of success.
And guess what? It often isn’t.
How Do You Know If You Are Unfocused In Your Business Growth Plans?
Does this list of desires, demands and urgent needs resonate with you? That’s just the desperate short list of what was thrown at us.
Can you tell what my biggest mistake showed me?
The problem with desperation is… it’s not a strategy. There’s no vision. There’s no magical thinking. No hocus pocus — poof — you’re now successful.
The truth is…If you want to be a lean mean entrepreneurial machine, you can’t spare the bandwidth on juggling 25 projects at once. Even if — especially if — you hire outside help. You will not be successful if you don’t finish tasks completely. You won’t make money if your team is spread too thin. And you can’t make progress if you don’t perfect each step, know that it is working BEFORE moving onto the next task.
From my experience, the biggest factor limiting companies of all sizes, from huge Fortune 500 companies to small companies alike, is lack of focus. More specifically… not focusing on what is most important and doing it correctly.
Now — as an entrepreneur — I won’t take on clients with desperation — throw more projects at it — mindset. It’s not really rational to waste time trying to complete… all the things.
What I do know that works for any business:
- One Project. Complete It. Perfect it.
- Then — Move on.
That’s how you run an effective business. That’s leadership. That’s a winning strategy. That’s the ultimate secret to success.
How Does Focus Apply to Businesses of Every Size?
In the largest of billion-dollar enterprises and the smallest of startups, the enemy to growth is not ability, it is the desperation to experience all the results at the very same time.
DESPERATION IS THE ENEMY OF GROWTH
Not convinced? Let me share a few stories from the world and then we’ll let you in on our secret path to avoid desperation and get a plan that lets you grow your business.
So, with all these businesses failing, what is the answer? Why do some make it and others don’t? Sure, there are many reasons for going out of business: not addressing a core market need, lack of cash flow, burnout and competition can all drive a business to the point of bankruptcy.
Take it from the masters of industry. What do the big companies, the ones that make it and continue to grow, year after year do for their businesses?
One of the best places to start is in Silicon Valley.
The Basis of Success in Business is Rooted in Focus
Step One: What Google, LinkedIn and Bono can teach every business owner
A legendary book by John Doerr called Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs, defines the strategy shared by so many of the world’s fastest growing companies. It chronicles a system for business growth driven by fanatical focus on measurable results that drive to quantifiable business goals.
In the words of Google co-founder Larry Page, who contributed to the book by authoring the forward, he credits his success to the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) framework.
“OKRs have helped lead us to 10x growth, many times over. They’ve helped make our crazy bold mission of ‘organizing the world’s information’ perhaps even achievable. They’ve kept me and the rest of the company on time and on track when it mattered most.”- LARRY PAGE
The thing that successful companies have that many others lack is a singular focused motto. Google states that its purpose is to organize the world’s information. From that very statement, you can understand what they are doing, and why.
The best companies, brands and even entertainers (Bono, Lady Gaga and even the Kardashians) know is they are clear about who they are and what they stand for.
It’s easy to get pulled off track if you are trying to be something like “the best bank of the south”, “the most popular shoe” or even the most popular restaurant. Can you tell why these goals aren’t as clear as what Google stands for?
The best stories are ones that are short, clear and immediately understood.
For example, Ernest Hemingway wrote this short story one day. Can you get the idea in this sentence?
Just as if you told your family YOU wanted to be the best you in 2019, or wanted to be wealthier this year, the more broad your goal the harder it is to achieve.
Because with lack of specificity you are more inclined to try anything and by spreading your effort you certainly don’t get to results.
A great marathoner focuses on an intense training program, personalized nutrition and has a by mile minute time in mind to get to the overall goal: a sub three-hour race.
A successful New Year’s resolution will be something like getting to a six-pack and 18% body fat versus focusing on “getting healthier” where anything you do can be spun in your head to equal success.
A business that will double its revenue, year over year, knows what it wants to be, and focuses ONLY on the tactics that matter most in getting there.
A few examples of successful companies who do growth well:
Peloton was already disrupting the cycling market was on the road to becoming the $4B company it is today BEFORE it added another product line to the mix. In this case, their new addition matched their product line really well: a treadmill.
Peloton knew their market well and understood that some of the fittest of its members wanted to cross train and would not stay only with the bike as they had larger fitness needs, like triathlon training.
And, like any good brand that listens, they also knew that some folks are die hard runners. They are built that way; they love their run and by no means will they ever tie up the shoes to ride a bike that goes nowhere.
So, what does a good brand do when they have a target customer (in this case the perfect segment of active, die hard athletes) that will NEVER convert? They give them what they want. And in this case, they decided offering an alternative to the bike was yet another way to win and perhaps, just perhaps, get bikers or runners to crossover.
And guess what? It worked.
But it worked BECAUSE they made their legacy product SUPER successful first and only offered the second one when they were sure it would only aid and enhance their brand versus cannibalize the user group that helped fuel explosive business growth and profitability.
Take Away Lesson: Focus on one product offering until it is successful. Remove the temptation for shiny objective syndrome. You can’t grow your business with four products if you don’t have one that pays the bills.
Another growth master is Airbnb.
What can any company learn from this hotel room competitor? Focus on your vision, even when it doesn’t work the first time.
Airbnb started out as a company to provide home stays during popular conferences, where hotels sold out or the proximate ones spiked in high cost. The idea originated when the founder’s stayed at a stranger’s house in San Francisco during a conference where they had no money for an expensive room, and during that stay, they fell in love with the networking and ability to get the local’s view of the city during the visit.
So, then what happened?
Airbnb reinvented itself repeatedly BEFORE the vision that allowed them to become the billion-dollar business it is today.
Take Away Lesson: You don’t always hit a homerun every time. You can’t lose weight without plateaus and you can’t grow a business if without setbacks. You need the resolve to manage through adversity and to continue your efforts when things are not operating correctly. The sign of a strong business is the ability to do both of these things, at once.
So, we know that to be successful, you must:
- Have a measurable goal
- Focus on that goal without moving on to something else until it is completed
- Know that setbacks are part of the process and no person or business will have 100% of their efforts work.
What secrets to success have you discovered? What do you think is the biggest factor in stopping your success? Tell me all about it. Hit reply and share your story with me.