Two of the three qualities that we have found lead to a company’s success work hand-in-hand, yet they’re significantly different.
The first is focus, which involves identifying and directing the company’s efforts and resources on the handful of strategic priorities that are key to its continued success. This is not the same as a list of tasks or action items needed to accomplish a goal, nor is it a list of things you simply want to do. It is a select few—three or four—key priorities that will have a significant impact on the future direction and success of the business.
In the best of situations, focus can be difficult for those small business owners who are impatient, have difficulty following through on tasks, or who seem forgetful. For all owners, it can be a daily challenge to not become distracted by the countless other business issues that seem to demand our attention.
When coupled with rapid growth in the business, narrowing our focus to a very small list of priorities can seem impossible. After all, we tell ourselves, isn’t the list of urgent items that need to be addressed right now the real priorities?
To help you think through and agree on your list of priorities, engage the key people in your organization, even if that’s just you and your spouse. While your initial list might be long, continue to eliminate items until you have only three or four.
Once you have your priority list is when the hard work begins, and this takes us to the second quality of discipline.
Discipline is not grasping for the silver bullets that promise easy fixes, fabulous success, or instant salvation. Discipline is the ability to avoid being distracted by the “shiny objects” that tend to call out to us, and it starts with the ability to maintain focus on the list of priorities you have established. As your company grows, this list becomes part of your Strategic Plan.
The definition of the word discipline changes slightly as a company grows and moves beyond the launch phase. At that point is when we must develop within them the operational and performance disciplines necessary to maintain profitable growth.
As with so many other professions, sustained business success is built on discipline. Retired Marine Pilot and Top Gun instructor, Dave Berke, writing about the importance of discipline in life, says, “In Hollywood, the home team wins the game thanks to the coach’s inspirational speech, and the troops hold the line thanks to the general’s heroic sermon. In real life, when fear, fatigue, and doubt set in, no speech can provide the motivation you need to keep going. The only thing you and your team can rely on is discipline.”
In business, is isn’t whether fear, fatigue, and doubt will set in, it’s a question of when. We all experience these at some point in our careers.
When we haven’t developed the ability to rely on our company’s disciplined processes or on ours and our people’s disciplined decisions and actions, we often find ourselves grasping for whatever tool is handy or the first option that becomes available. As a result, too often we come up short and our business pays the price.