Disciplining Yourself to Focus – Going from Entrepreneur to CEO

Disciplining Yourself to Focus – Going from Entrepreneur to CEO January 17, 2014

Successful Entrepreneurs Are Not Necessarily Successful CEOs

As your company grows, the capabilities that got you to that growth may no longer serve you in the future.  The successful path from entrepreneur to CEO involves making changes in three key areas:

  1. Letting go of your role as Chief Sales Officer
  2. Disciplining yourself to Focus
  3. Building the Right Culture

Last time we looked at letting go of the Chief Sales Officer role. This time, let’s look at disciplining yourself to Focus.

Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to explore new options and to act on them quickly. The talent to see opportunity and take advantage of it is the hallmark of every great entrepreneur. As the old saying goes however, our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses. Once a company has established itself in a certain niche, developed a strategy to win and grown in size, it can become counterproductive, even dangerous to chase after options as you have done in the past. Why?

  • Others who work with you can only execute on a few priorities along with their day to day work
  • You take your eye off the ball and your lack of focus sends mixed messages
  • It’s hard to align your company in a unified direction if you keep changing your focus
  • You become less scalable because you are doing one thing in the “old” business and experimenting with the “new” business
  • Your company is probably less nimble than it used to be because it’s grown so turning on a dime is no longer a key capability

What’s the solution? FOCUS

Here are some tips on how to keep yourself and your company focused:

  1. Go back and review your mission statement – any new initiatives should line up with the overall mission, if they don’t, don’t do it. For more information on assessing and developing your mission statement, click here.
  2. Ask yourself what your real motivation is – are you getting bored with how smoothly your business is running and need more stimulation? If so, find a challenge that doesn’t whipsaw your current business model. You could consider an acquisition, search for top talent, investigate your eventual exit strategy or start cross fit training.
  3. If you have attention deficit disorder tendencies or ADD and feel most comfortable going from thing to thing, realize that you will feel uncomfortable when you focus. Staying present to the task at hand and not letting competing demands interfere is easier said than done. Stay present to what you are currently focusing on. Set a certain amount of time like 30 minutes where you will only think about a specific thing like bringing value added to the customers and then give yourself a break.
  4. Make sure that you have an inspiring organizational and personal vision so that you can go back to the bigger picture. For more information on assessing and developing your organizational vision, click here and for developing your personal vision, click here. Reminding yourself of the vision and brainstorming ways to achieve it may generate great ideas that can be used to meet your current goals. Speaking of goals, having organizational goals and objectives to reach the company vision are essential and they help you and others stay focused. Keep your stated priorities top of mind and review them often. Be willing to adjust your plan so it stays up to date.
  5. Separate any new ventures from the running of your current company and realize that if you divide your time, it will be reflected in your leadership. If you must look at other opportunities, do so in a controlled way and ask yourself:
    • Why is this important?
    • What would be the benefit? Downside?
    • Who outside my company could take the lead on exploring new directions without taking the focus off what our core business and strategy is?

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how the most successful CEOs and companies are the ones with laser focus. He uses an analogy of the hedgehog and the fox. Hedgehogs focus on one big thing while the fox pursues many things. In his research, the hedgehogs turn out to be the most successful while the foxes often get lost in all the options they consider.

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