Can Lack of Focus Kill Your Business?

Joe Weinlick
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The strength of a startup business lies in how well the company delivers a very specific and unique product that no one else has on the market. Trying to create a product with a lot of cool things at once may confuse consumers, and this lack of focus on one special aspect of a product may sink a company before it has a chance to flourish.

Startup investor Martin Zwilling explains to Forbes magazine that innovation beyond the initial product offering can occur later, usually after the business becomes better known. A lack of focus in a fledgling company may doom it before it gets off the ground. Focus means limiting the scope of your product to hone in on a single thing your company does really, really well.

Zwilling cites Amazon, YouTube and Instagram as examples of success stories. Amazon started by selling books online, which was a specialized offering in 1999 that no other company had at the time. YouTube began by allowing users to post homemade videos of themselves as a dating service, and now the video-sharing site is ubiquitous. Instagram was simply a website for friends to post photos for each other. All three websites have become advertising juggernauts since their initial launches. But the thing they share in common is that these businesses did one thing very well to start, which grabbed the attention of customers.

Zwilling, as a startup business consultant, notes several ways a lack of focus destroys companies. In his experience, brand new firms that cannot focus on a single aspect of product delivery fail more often than companies with laser-sharp determination to succeed.

Companies must be small enough to react quickly to market fluctuations. Zwilling ties the time to market to the size of an offering. Smaller companies, with a single-minded purpose, can take another company's customer base in as little as 90 days. Startups with a lack of focus tend to take longer to get into emerging markets, and this allows larger companies to adapt in time to save customers.

Overly broad products require too much infrastructure, which means too much initial overhead. A focused company, with fewer employees, smaller work spaces and just one or two products, keeps expenses down to maximize profits quickly. Expansion comes later after initial successes.

A company with just a couple of new products can adapt more quickly and change the product to fit a customer's needs more readily. Fewer products means a firm can perfect the one thing it does right before moving on to other projects. Continuous innovation, beyond the first product offering, keeps your startup viable in an ever-changing market.

More product features means more time is needed for your sales pitch to work. To achieve success, keep your sales mantra to three bullet points as to why your product is better than anyone else's. A lack of focus quickly drains employees and owners because they try to keep up with too much. Focused staff can deliver targeted messages and products much more reliably without worrying about superfluous facts or features.

Startups succeed because they have a simple, single-minded strategy that everyone on the team knows. A lack of focus on the core of the business leads to crisis after crisis that not even the best entrepreneur can solve.


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