Focusing On What Is Important Can Be Difficult
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Tesla automobile plant in Fremont. It was one of the more enjoyable factory walkthroughs that I have had in my career. The factory is highly automated and has a continuous movement that makes it appear as if it is alive. I was one of a group of 50 people. In the middle of the tour, someone asked if it was safe to keep the production line moving during such a large tour. The response: “We measure ourselves on how many cars we complete in a day…if the President of the United States were here…production keeps moving.”
What this means to me is that you always have to keep things focused on what the company is rewarded for. This past week, I had the pleasure of giving a lecture on establishing business milestones. This lecture is all about focusing on what is important to your business and asking yourself the essential question “Is what I am doing now going to be what helps to move the company forward?”
All too often, the answer is “no”.
Here is an example. If your company is rewarded for attaining users, focusing on public relations activities that do not impact customer acquisition is not a reasonable activity. In most cases, a business is rewarded from doing one or maybe two things really well. Activities that do not enable what you are rewarded for are usually a waste of time.
Part of the class that I put together around milestones has an activity that allows entrepreneurs to sit down in groups of three and discuss what activities they have undertaken that have not met the requirement of helping their business objectives. This is followed by a discussion of what 3-5 activities they would like to undertake that will help their business. At the end of the activity, I ask them all what they thought of the exercise and the answer thus far has been universal. “It is really hard to set priorities and target milestones.”
They are right…it is. :)
Part of the challenge comes from not knowing what many of them are trying to achieve with their business. This is the plight of many young entrepreneurs. I think that the answer is relatively simple. When you are small…you need to focus on what matters. Every company has at least one thing that matters. For a consumer application company, it is usually acquiring users. For business to business…it could be about licensing. What I try to make sure my class walks away with is to find the metrics that matter and put your energies around them.
Food for thought.