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Maintaining your focus is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges of starting and growing your own business. It’s easy to get started on a new project that you’re excited about. However, when that six-month mark rolls around, you might find yourself losing interest and losing the motivation it takes to keep the project running.
In this week’s podcast, Carter and I talk about how to maintain your focus for the long haul. We’ll discuss some of our own experiences on this topic, and go through some questions you can ask yourself to gauge whether or not your business is on the right track.
Managing Your Ideas
The evolution of the entrepreneurial mind is an interesting thing. In the beginning of your career, it’s easy to become discouraged because you can’t think of any ideas for starting a business. Then, as time goes on and you learn more and more, you realize you have too many ideas, and there’s no way you could ever pursue them all. It’s a shift from the scarcity mindset to the abundance mindset.
If you’re still in the scarcity mindset, don’t worry. You won’t be there for long. Carter recommends doing a daily idea generation exercise to get into the habit of constantly thinking up new ideas. James Altucher has a great way of doing this, which you can read more about here. Save these ideas in your phone or on your computer, in a place where you can keep them safe, secure, and ready to use if and when you need them.
If you’re in the abundance mindset, welcome. Carter’s advice here is to put your ideas on layaway for at least 30 days. Write your ideas down and then do something to set yourself a reminder about the idea in at least 30 days. That way, you can reevaluate the idea when it’s not new and lustful in your mind, and you’ll probably feel better equipped to make a more logical decision on whether or not the idea is worth pursuing.
Another tip for managing an abundance of ideas, is to work on becoming more confident at the art of saying no. While it’s never our first inclination to say no to a new project or venture that excites us, sometimes it’s very necessary in order to stay focused on the current project at hand. Another tip from Carter on this topic is to think about investments as a punch card. For example, you have a punch card and throughout your entire lifetime, you can only invest in 10 punches. Ask yourself if this venture is worth one punch out of those ten, and if it is, it’s probably worth your time.
Validating Your Focus
It’s scary to focus all of your energy into one main project. You’re putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. But it’s that type of discipline and drive that leads to the type of hockey stick growth all business hope to achieve.
But how do you know if you’re on the right track? While it’s impossible to see the future of any business, there are signs you can look for to help gauge whether or not your business is heading in a positive or negative direction. Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
Do people like my product?
Ask your customers for feedback. If you’re getting lots of positive comments and your customers are happy with their purchase, this is a really good sign your laser-sharp focus is paying off. On the other end of the spectrum, use negative feedback to tweak your product and reevaluate the parts of your customer experience that are causing pain points.
Do outside experts agree that I’m selling a quality product?
Get an outside perspective on your product as soon as you can. Ask someone who is an expert in your field what they honestly think, and take their advice to heart. If the experts aren’t confident in what you’re selling, it might be time to reconsider your project and think about focusing your energies elsewhere.
Is there competition in your field?
What new entrepreneurs often don’t realize, is that competition is actually a very good thing. If there is no competition in your niche, there is probably a reason why, and you should think about switching your focus until you have the resources to pursue something with that much risk. If there is competition in your niche, that’s great. If they’re wildly successful, even better. These are all great signs that your business is on the right track and you’re focusing your time and energy well.
It’s unfortunate, but part of being an entrepreneur is accepting failure. Instead of looking at failure as a negative, however, you can look at it as a learning experience and a truly valuable process. Throughout all of your entrepreneurial pursuits, it’s so important to remain optimistic. You never know when things could turn around, and sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom before you can really start growing. Here’s a little anecdote on that topic…
In late 2014, I was ready put my business into maintenance mode. I told my father, who also happens to be my CFO, that it was time to step away and just put this thing on auto-pilot, so that I was no longer wasting my time or resources.
In the process of putting the website in maintenance mode, I made one subtle tweak to my homepage. It was this small tweak that completely turned everything around. Now, less than a year later, this business is my main focus and I’m pouring all my energy into optimizing it. I’m entering the hockey stick growth phase I mentioned earlier, and things are looking very positive.
So, if you’re in the trenches, keep your head up, things can always turn around. And most of all, stay focused!