In the Que
In the Que: Focus
August 30, 2014
1

Focus

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
– Dale Carnegie

Que Venture provides capital and services to help turn your passions into profits.  As we launched and work to grow our network, than we must focus on our vision.  Focus is the key.

Focus is one of the often repeated pieces of advice from successful entrepreneurs.  In fact, Inc Magazine recently published an article highlighting how to stay in business from serial entrepreneurs that have created long-lasting organizations (read more about founding local businesses at thedistance.com).  Focus was the main advice given by proven founders that have established and built long-lasting organizations.

The Wall Street Journal simiarly published an article entitled Don’t Drop the Baby that articulates find the most important thing, and do that.  In other words, focus.  The WSJ details how this is applicable for all companies, big and small.

Why focus?  Well, if you are anything like us, it is easy to get distracted.  It is easy to daydream dream and envision the ultimate goal of your company.  It is easy to fall into wanting perfection with your web site, your logo, your company name.  But those all take away from your company mission.

Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour, describes focus in another way:  Be Famous for Something.  Focus allowed Under Armour to concentrate on selling compression shirts.  Was it a successful tactic?  Under Armour grew revenue from $0 to $5 million in the first five years.  The secret sauce was finding that one thing, the compression shirt, and staying true to the brand and mission.  Focus on that one thing.

Focus allows you to narrow the all-to-long list of items to the most important.  At Que, we have pages of objectives to accomplish, but upon focusing on the mission, then the list of priorities shifts quite easily.  Our primary focus is growing our name and brand in the entrepreneurship community.  In order to help people turn their creative passion, whether it is art, photography, music, writing, crafting or anything else, then those people need to know about Que.

From our early days, it is easy to get caught up into thinking what type of merchandise and marketing materials we should create to spread the word.  Eventually, this will be important, but not as important as creating a web site and receiving feedback from our peers and internal network of mentors and supporters.

Chip Paucek, the co-founder of online education provider, 2U, provides an apt analogy from a board member:

One board member summed it up this way: We made good cookies, then great cookies, and now we make several flavors of great cookies. We don’t make bagels.

2U followed a different path (they raised $100 million in capital) than Under Armour.  Both organizations competed in crowded industries (sports apparel and online education) and found ways to differentiate themselves.  2U focused on the online degree, where many of its competitors focused on providing education.

As noted in the differences between 2U and Under Armour, every company will have a different avenue of focus, different priorities, so there is no generic advice on how to focus.  Defining your top objectives must be part of your thinking and planning.  If you can’t define the top priority, then that is now your top priority.

At Que, our focus is on growing the community.  This means we are focusing on user growth.  Part of creating a successful and sustainable business is developing customers (new and repeat).  As we tell others of the Que vision and mission, then the question often asked is “how will you find people?” For many people, our answer is likely the first steps for you as well, word of mouth  and our web site.  We also attend events in the maker and do-it-yourself (DIY) community because we think there is overlap in the DIY market and budding entrepreneurs.  It’s an any and all the above approach, but it is our primary focus.  For Que to succeed, then we need to be associated with new business development, so we don’t think it is scattered or unfocused.

If you are thinking about starting a new business, but are stifled with inaction, then take a minute and re-read the Dale Carngie quote.  Go out and get busy is your first priority.  There are a variety of ways to start testing your idea.  If you know you have some potential customers or receive positive feedback, then that is a step in the right direction.  But you don’t know until you start putting your ideas on the table.  You don’t know until you try.  One of the easiest ways to test your idea, is build a landing page.  There are a few immediate benefits to this approach.

First, when you meet your friends or new people out at the next summer BBQ and someone says “how are things?  what are you up to?” then you have a new answer.  You can stop talking about the weather for 5 minutes and get a unique perspective on your idea.  You can say, “I’m gaging interest, so I have a landing page, you should check it out.”  Also, the landing page provides the start of your community.  You can build your potential future customers based on the people who sign up for more information.  If you are curious about how to take these steps, then feel free to contact us.

Focus works by finding the primary priority and creating many smaller tasks to achieve that objective.  For us, this is our approach.  For you, it may be completely different.  The commonality is that you should know your top priority and focus on achieving it.

We hope this helps as you are working towards your entrepreneurial venture.  If you have any questions or comments, then please reach out to us at joelwhipple@queventures.com.

Sincerely,

Joel Whipple

Que Ventures

PS…another quick tip to help focus your goals is find a “to-do” app that works for you.  Many of the popular apps (such as Evernote) will work on your desktop and mobile device.  Evernote allows your to jot down notes or save web sites to read later.  Especially if you are starting your business on the side, then a read later app (such as Instapaper or Pocket) allows you to send articles from your desktop (perhaps at the office) to your phone or home computer to read later.  Daily reminder apps (such as Any.do) help organize your never-ending list and features like now, tomorrow or later allow you to prioritize as new things emerge.  Email apps (such as Mailbox) also have the today, tomorrow and later feature so you don’t lose sight of items that are important, just not important right now.