Because of the great success of so many entrepreneurs over the past decades, more and more people have caught the entrepreneurial bug.
Pretty much everyone I know walks around with a big idea in their head for a new company or product they want to launch.
But then the numbers thin out quickly. For every thousand people who have an idea, only a few actually launch their businesses. And out of those who launch, only a few will ever generate even some revenues. And out of those who generate even some revenues, only a few will ever generate over $1 million in revenues. And so on and so forth.
The result of this is that the chance of any entrepreneur building a $10 million/year business is extremely low. Unfortunate, but true.
One of the key reasons for this is that most entrepreneurs actually have too many ideas. They are constantly thinking about better mousetraps and ways of doing things. While sometimes these ideas are good, more often, these ideas get in the way of success.
This happens when entrepreneurs go down one path, only to switch to a new path or idea mid-stream. These entrepreneurs leave several tasks half or three-quarters complete. And unfortunately one task fully completed is generally much more valuable than 100 tasks partially completed.
We often call this shiny object syndrome. Entrepreneurs go down a path, only to be distracted by shiny objects; ideas and methods which seem like they will result in success more quickly or easily. And more often than not, these shiny objects do not lead to the promised land. In fact, the first shiny object is often followed by a second shiny object and so on. As a result, the entrepreneur never makes meaningful progress towards achieving their goals.
This is not to say that entrepreneurs shouldn’t be creative, nor change courses based on customer feedback. They must do this as appropriate. The key is to determine whether new opportunities are strategic or just opportunistic. Strategic opportunities allow you to more effectively achieve the strategic objectives you’ve already laid out. Conversely opportunistic opportunities are ones that may make you more money in the short or long-term, but don’t directly progress your business toward its stated goals.
Let me give you an example, and one which shows that some opportunities can be viewed as both strategic or opportunistic based on your situation. Let’s say you are a new retail business and get the opportunity to launch a second location since a great new space suddenly opened up. If your current goals are to generate more sales in your current location, set up better marketing systems, and better train your staff, then launching the second location is opportunistic. It doesn’t allow you to achieve your stated goals. And you should pass on it. If you went after it, you’d most likely land up with two failed locations.
Conversely, if your one retail location was more mature, and your stated goals were to expand your business, than this new location would be a strategic opportunity worth taking a close look at.
Which leads me to think about one of my favourite celebrities. In fact, one of the few celebrities I’ve known since I was a child. That celebrity is Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.
What’s so great about Cookie Monster is that he is focused on one strategic goal; finding and eating cookies. And pretty much nothing distracts him from that goal. Cookie Monster yields to no shiny objects nor opportunistic thinking. If presented with an option that doesn’t promise him the chance to get more cookies, he’s passing.
Specifically, Cookie Monster teaches entrepreneurs that:
- We should be highly focused on achieving our stated goals
- We should let nothing steer us away from achieving our stated goals
- We should judge new opportunities based on how well they will allow us to achieve our stated goals.
If Cookie Monster scheduled his days, I’m assuming it would look something like this:
- 9am: search for and eat cookies
- 10am: search for and eat cookies
- 11am: search for and eat cookies
- and so on…
Of course, most entrepreneurs can’t be as focused and have legitimate other tasks to handle. But just imagine how much more successful you could be if you forced yourself to focus on achieving your goals each and every day. If you blocked out time every day to progress your business, rather then simply fighting fires and ending each day with your company no better than when the day started.
So stop imagining, and make this a reality. Pick a chunk of time every day where you do nothing but work on improving your business. And when you’re done with that time chunk, reward yourself for doing the right thing…perhaps with a cookie.