Focus on the Good

Category: Strategy

For me, one of the hardest parts of gardening is the reality that not all plants will grow. If I plant 20 seeds, there is a good chance that only 18 or 19 will sprout. And even more likely that only 15 or 16 plants will survive transplanting and grow to maturity.

I guess I get too attached. I see the ones that are not thriving and I feel bad. It could also be that I am a recovering perfectionist. Less than 100% is not perfect and just bothers me. I also could have unrealistic expectations that are bogging me down.

Here’s the important point that my husband, Farmer Thad, has always known: You plan on a certain percentage of loss and move on.

In other words, it’s a waste of time to put too much attention on those seedlings that don’t sprout. No amount of watering, praying, or hovering will make them sprout. The same thing once they are grown. A certain percentage of the plants will not thrive and never become large, lively plants. It’s better to let these plants go rather than transplant them and give all of your attention to them. The reasons for this are that:

  • The plant is unlikely to ever catch up
  • You have less time and energy to devote to the healthy plants so they may not grow as quickly nor as large as possible
  • An unhealthy plant will attract bugs and other pests that may attack all the plants.

The moral of this story is that it’s better to focus your time and attention on the plants that are thriving and to let the runts take care of themselves.

In business, this same principle applies. It’s important to focus on the good and strong things. These are the tactics and strategies that are working well.

  • Instead of pushing a new product that very few customers seem to like, how can you use that time to leverage the unexpected upsurge in interest in an older product you revamped?
  • Instead of chasing after the big corporate customer that you want but doesn’t seem to notice that you exist, how can you use that time to forge stronger relationships with the niche market that adores you?
  • Instead of trying to improve your accounting skills so you can get better at recording your transactions in QuickBooks, how can you use that time to hire someone who already has these skills?

I frequently talk about the importance of addressing both those things that are working well as well as those that did not go as planned. This is important because in business the runts have the ability to undermine our overall success depending upon their importance.

However, I do not advocate spending large amounts of time searching for ways to make seedlings sprout or runts to grow. The idea is to spot them, determine their overall importance, and then either let them go, find a quick fix, or if they are critical to overall success elevate them to find a way around or through them.

Unfortunately, we sometimes misdiagnose the importance of our failures. This may be because we are personally attached to the approach or strategy. Or it could be because someone that we respect has told us that it’s mission critical. Or it could be because we are a perfectionist that cannot stand to fail or see failure in our lives.

This is why working with a coach, mentor, or mastermind group is so important. Those people outside of our business have experiences that we haven’t had. And more importantly they have an outside perspective that will allow you to see the runts in a larger context.

As small business owners we are in an odd position. We are frequently the chief cook and bottle washer in our businesses – meaning we must do it all. And yet, we are not good at all aspects of our business. My weaknesses are in technology and sales; yours may be in bookkeeping, organizational skills, or overall strategy design. However, because the business is just you, you are pulled in all directions and frequently the healthy seedlings or things you excel at are ignored as you spend extra time getting the stragglers to survive.

Unlike gardening where you have the option to let the runts die, your business will not survive without all of the business functions being covered. Therefore, instead of spending time and energy to make the runts grow, buy some plants that someone else has grown for you. In other words, outsource.

In areas where you do have choices, like chasing after certain market segments or using selected marketing techniques, figure out what is working best and spend your time and money there. And just let the others lie there on their own. They will probably just die off from benign neglect, but occasionally you will be surprised when you turn around and see they are suddenly flowering on their own despite you.

Focus on the good. Focus on your successes. And focus on the healthy. This will keep you motivated and it will also help you to grow more quickly.