Jun 19, 2014 Blogs

How do Entrepreneurs measure focus?

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Most b-schools advocate the ‘Focus’ mantra and include case studies in their pedagogy, to instill an attitude that nurtures focus among students. Similar messages are heard from successful business entrepreneurs. For instance, co-founder of AppFirst shared his experience with Forbes that “start-ups rarely fail from their teams not working hard enough; they fail from their people working on the wrong things”. Entrepreneurs are evolving and realizing that focus is what triggers the leap on the growth trajectory. Having tasted the success led by focus is giving birth to business management concepts like lean validation, 80-20 rule and so on.

Little things matter a lot and consume majority of time

Despite the emergence of such concepts, the question that needs to be answered is ‘how far are these concepts being implemented, to efficiently execute daily business operations?’ We have a checklist that allows you to measure focus.

Before you scroll down to the solution, spend a few minutes to quickly pen down answers for the following questions:

  • What is the time taken by 4 tasks which otherwise could have been used for generating more business?
  • Could time spent for admin/ office work/ office set-up, etc have been utilized for something more productive?
  • Did I get diverted while making a call because the cleaner did not turn up today? Did I miss out on project deadline cause of power outage? Was I interrupted by internet bandwidth fluctuations while I was completing a transaction online?
  • Being a freelancer, did your husband or mother-in-law or your child take you away from a thought process?
  • As a team, are we more distracted because it is not an office environment?

Now, have a look at this figure that is introduced in b-schools during management education.

The figure suggests that managers at different levels of hierarchy spend linear time to arrive at relevant decisions. This portrays an ideal structure for managers which allow them to focus on what they have to achieve at the same time divide time efficiently for different tasks.

On the contrary, nothing seems ideal in a startup situation. Here’s how the division of work among different levels of hierarchy looks like in a startup until it reaches a point of stabilization. The line of middle managers in startups is almost invisible, to manage lean hierarchies and hence lot of decision making time of Top level managers is consumed by a mix of strategic, tactical and operational decisions.

As a startup entrepreneur, you may agree that the founding team has to spend time on addressing operational as well as strategic matters. To avoid the mixture and clutter, founding team needs to measure focus.

Do you measure focus?

A challenge for entrepreneurs is to measure something as intangible as ‘focus’, but there are metrics that help you measure. Metrics like:

  • Time optimization
  • ROI
  • Growth rate: Growth from one to many
  • Brand recognition, evolution of your organization/brand

You can implement FOCUS and gain efficiency by applying four simple actions:

Delegate: You may have to handle everything; right from opening your office in the morning, meeting vendors, determining quarterly goals to meeting investors. To make it simpler, ask yourself am I the only one who can decide and act upon it. If the answer is no, then delegate it.

Outsource: Time-tested and programmed tasks need not be managed by your internal team. Your team can attend to something more important and unique while your outsource service provider handles the specialized tasks.

Partner: Partner your strengths and weakness through a collaborative engagement. Let the specialists manage it for you and you can handle what you specialize in. Most times entrepreneurs get their hands dirty with tasks like SEO and IT. Let someone handle it for you, who has already been through that and established an agency out of it.

Consolidate: Power of consolidation prepares startups and early subsidiaries to tread towards fast growth. For instance, finding an office space that brings in economies of consolidating shared services helps optimize your efforts and lay focus only on business growth.

The focus needs to be applied within start-ups and early businesses, to retain an ideal hierarchy structure that aligns with decision making. This invisible strength is what will boost momentum for a startup to rise on the growth trajectory.

If you measure FOCUS in a different way, share it with me or tweet @ikevaindia.

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