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Stay Focused

Focus is the key to a successful startup

The definition of a startup means you have very few resources to employ and little time to get them to do something valuable. The clock is always ticking, and the money (if you even have any) is running out by the day. With so little to leverage, you need to make sure that the focus of your company's product offer is as razor sharp as possible.

Don't be all you can be. Be as little as you can be.

Most startup companies fail because they try to be too many things to too many people right from the onset. They think of every possible option they could load into their product offer. While this may give them the feeling of being one of the ďbig boys,Ē the grim reality is they are not. In fact by trying to be too many things from the start, these companies often end up delivering no real value at all.

Instead of trying to be all things to all people, try being one thing to all people. Think of PayPal, the highly successful startup that allowed users to e-mail money over the Internet to each other. PayPal could have chosen a million options for their offer. They could have become an on-line credit card company, an auction site, a loan provider and so on. But what made the company successful was their focus on only one offer Ė e-mailing money from one person to the other.

PayPal did one simple thing so well that the industry giant eBay purchased them for $1.5 billion in 2002, even after eBay had already built the same service themselves. PayPal is a great example of a company keeping a sharp focus one doing on thing right even when so many great opportunities could have easily distracted them.

Bite off less than you can chew

Delivering your product to market is an amazing feat to begin with. Even still, a common problem among small companies is their inability to predict what it will take to actually support a product once it has gone to market. Itís easy to conceive complex products with lots of features. But actually bringing that product to market and supporting its use with customers is a whole different story.

Instead of trying to roll out everything and the kitchen sink in your approach to market, just roll out the sink. If you find that you can support your product just fine after itís been successfully selling in the first year, then go ahead and add to it. Itís a lot easier to add features along the way than it is to support features you donít have the resources for to begin with.

You have ten seconds to get it right

Your customer has a life, even if you do not. They are being constantly bombarded with marketing messages from the latest movies releases to the newest type of shampoo. They donít have the time or energy to stop their entire day to focus on just your product. So if you are lucky enough to have ten seconds of their attention, you had better make good use of it.

The exercise of developing your value proposition in ten seconds is a great way to distill down your feature set to those items that will get peopleís attention right away. If itís not going to add value to the ten second pitch, itís not critical to your productís success. If you canít get your customerís attention with the one key benefit to your product, the rest of your features will never see the light of day to begin with.

Stay on target gold leader

Your product launch is just the beginning of keeping your focus. Once you have brought your product to market and enjoyed some early success, it may become even harder to stay focused. Now you have customers calling you and recommending (or demanding!) features to be added and services to be provided. All of these distractions make it even harder to keep you and your team focused on a single goal.

Fortunately the process of keeping your resources focused post-launch is entirely the same. You need to pick your battles and allocate your resources toward the few initiatives that will be best served to do the one thing right that is truly driving your company. Serving the needs and whims of every customer sounds great, but it can also be a terrible detour when trying to keep the forward progress of your company moving.

If at any point during your journey youíre unsure whether or not youíre spending your time and resources effectively, just ask yourself one question, ďIs this driving the core benefit of our product?Ē. If the answer is ďyesĒ, youíre headed in the right direction.
Wil Schroter
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