Saturday, May 9, 2009

Take Advantage of Opportunities but Maintain Discipline

The most successful businesses maintain focus on their core mission and how it serves their clients. Your core business should be a combination of what you do best, what you are most passionate about and what pays the bills and makes you lots of profit. When opportunity comes knocking, and it will, you must have the discipline to make sure that it is aligned with your core mission and your strategic vision before you jump on it - always think carefully before you commit your company resources to what may turn out to be a costly endeavor that takes your time, money and assets from what you do best.

Unbelievably sage advice that is easier said than done.

Everyday, business owners are bombarded with "opportunities" that will make them "more money". And since owning a business is about making money, most small business owners jump at the opportunities.

Although these opportunities may appear to benefit the company in the near-term, they often distract us and stretch us so thin that we begin to deviate from the path that we set out on - the path to our vision.

This is why we should always work hard at the beginning stages of creating a business to build a strong foundation. And it's why in my coaching practice, I spend the entire first month working with my clients to help them understand the importance of Mission, Vision, Commitments and long-term Goals.

As it turns out, at least once a week, I have a client, either in a coaching session or over the phone, ask me if an opportunity that has "popped-up" is worth pursuing. They ask me, as if I have the answers for them. And much to their dismay, I often answer their question with more questions - the same questions every time.

How does that fit into your Mission, Vision and Commitments?

How will it help you reach your Goals?

How does that fit into your Business Plan?

And it's funny, even though they knew that's what I was going to say and they knew my answer before the words come out of my lips, they had to ask. They just needed to be reminded of what the are really trying to do - they needed to be reminded of what their Goals are and what their current plan is to reach those goals.

It's not that they don't or shouldn't pursue new opportunities, it's just that by staying focused on their long-term goals and vision and not being distracted by every "short-term" opportunity that comes up, they will actually always be working towards reaching the goals that they set out on - whether the journey started yesterday, six months ago or ten years ago.

And it's not to say that you can't redefine what you are about and take on opportunities that come up. I would never advise a client to turn down an opportunity. But they need to look at the decision - not within the context of what it will bring into the company today, but instead what it will do to help and cost the company in the long term.

Discipline and focus are very difficult for most of us. They don't come easy, because they are usually lost in everyday life. Simply stated, we forget about the future and focus only on the present (or near-term future). But, it is those that are able to keep the long term in the fore front of their mind that seem most equipped to actually make it happen.

So stop and look around at those that are most successful in every walk of life - sports, business, music, art, and school. They are nearly always the ones who seem to stay more focused on the outcome, even the in face of every day distractions. They don't compromise their vision to accomplish their long term goals for short term gain - no matter how inviting it is.

So ask yourself the following questions:

- How disciplined are you?

- How focused on your goals are you?

- If you are easily distracted from what you want in the long term, what are you
going to do different tomorrow?
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