Redirecting Your Business Focus

Recently, I read a great article on business focus in the January 2017 issue of Inc. magazine entitled “Keep Your Head in the Clouds and Your Feet in the Mud.” While I found the title, in and of itself, interesting, I thought it would definitely be worthwhile reading this at length. It was authored by Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Wine Library, whose book I had read several years ago. He started out by saying: “If you’re an entrepreneur who is struggling with average results, there’s a good chance you’re stuck in ‘the middle.’” Interesting, I thought, particularly with the average results we have been seeing in the dairy industry with its low milk prices during these past two years. He went on to explain: “By the middle, I mean you’re probably too focused on the minutiae, the 99 percent of the stuff you encounter every day that has nothing to do with what you want out of your business and is not part of the hard work it takes to get it.” Wow! This is true for so many of us that run our own businesses, including myself. I would like to suggest that we start to focus on the items that really matter, the reasons you are actually in business to begin with. Aside from providing for your family, what are your specific reasons? Do you want to provide consumers with the #1 beverage available? Do you want to develop the very best genetics in the marketplace? Is it your goal to successfully continue your ancestors’ dream farm? Whatever that objective is for you, this should be your primary focus today. As Vaynerchuk explains:   “The clouds are a metaphor for strategy. They’re the high end beliefs that are at the heart of everything you do, everything you want out of your business.” It’s easy to shift our focus away from these when we are in difficult times.   It should certainly not be whether the banks are going to start calling in their lines and loans since dairies have not been cash flowing with $13/cwt milk, even if you have been hearing such rumors. One of the best practices I have utilized over the past 19 years as an entrepreneur is to simply ask myself: Will this activity get me closer to by goal? This forces me to do two tasks. First, it helps me to consistently focus on my objectives for my business. Additionally, it reminds me that, in order to reach those objectives, I need to remain focused on the items that will guide me toward them. You probably know the Biblical reference that stated: “What got you out of Egypt is not necessarily what’s going to get you to the Promised Land.” It is the focus on your strategic initiatives and “Why” you want to reach them. If you know your “Why,” you will undoubtedly figure out the how of accomplishing these objectives. The “dirt” that Vaynerchuk describes refers to all the detailed items that have to be done to succeed. You know, within your expertise, the many things that you need to execute correctly. While these all need to be done by you or someone on your team, the problem lies with our inability to get above these tasks. If we are not careful, spending too much time on these activities can put you in a vulnerable position! We all need to look up occasionally and check out the macro-economic trends and what is happening in your marketplace. This is precisely why I hold regular Management Team Meetings with my Clients, to make certain that we periodically look at what is going on around us, in addition to how we are performing vs. our goals, and to check what we are truly focused on. This process should also include one other item. While having the answers can often be beneficial, remember that asking the right questions can often be even more powerful. Think about it. It’s your business!