How to Focus on What Matters Most in Your Business

Feeling Scattered? Here’s a Simple, Fun Way to Stay Focused on What Matters

The first quarter is a busy time for business owners. There’s a lot of excitement, and probably more than a little pressure, to hit the ground running and pursue growth and success in the new year. Especially if you’re like me and you’ve set clear goals for the year ahead. (I hope you have!)

But hold on a second …

This early in the new year, many of us are still trying to close out the last one in terms of taxes, inventory, and year-end paperwork. We have one foot in the last year and the other stepping eagerly toward the future. This balancing of the old and the new can feel like a tug of war pulling us all in two directions at once.

I’m sure you’re determined to get off to a great start and spark enthusiasm on your team. So here’s an easy and powerful way to set the tone for the entire year.

Pick a theme, and run with it.

What do I mean by a theme? First, I’ll tell you what I’m not talking about: a corporate mission statement.

Now, before you accuse me of corporate heresy, I have nothing against a good mission statement. They’re valuable in the grand scheme. And like a mission statement, your theme should tie into your greater vision, reflecting the overall direction you want to take your business.

But in my experience, mission statements tend to be too vague and broad to provide the focus and energy we need to rise above the daily fray. A good theme, on the other hand, will provide a framework for how you want your team to think and act.

Shoot for something simple, strong and direct.

Great leaders in business, in sports, in the military, have always known that short, memorable phrases make the biggest impact.

Consider some of the most powerful battle cries in history, for example.

“Remember the Alamo!”

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

But, of course, we’re talking business here, not life or death. You’ll want your theme to be a bit lighter and brighter.

I’m guessing you’re familiar with the business mantras of some of the world’s most successful corporations. Google’s “Don’t be evil.” Apple’s “Think different.”

That’s the level of simplicity and inspiration to strive for. It’s your one phrase that you want everybody to remember, above all else.

Or, you can think of it like a good political campaign slogan, the kind of line they put on a backdrop behind the podium during a press conference. Only yours is going to actually mean something. In fact, it has to mean something.

Your theme must be relevant for you and your team.

A good theme is understandable and applicable both inside your business for your employee’s and partners and outside for customers and prospects. It can’t be some generic quote you saw on a motivational poster. Some advocate zeroing in on just one word, but I believe just a bit more specific detail is more helpful.

If you’ve got big challenges ahead, recognize them. If you see great opportunity, tout it. At the same time, be careful about being too rosy or too pessimistic. Just be real!

Here are a few theme ideas to get you thinking.

Empowering people. Focus your energy on giving yourself, your employees and your customers the tools, encouragement, and backing needed to thrive.

Relationships that last. This one could be about doing everything you can to nurture and sustain the partnerships that help your business succeed.

Shining through support. This one’s a real-life example for 2017 from one of my clients. This year, she’s dedicated to providing more personalized support for her employees and her clients, while getting more of the same for herself.

This “support” theme is like the ray of light from a lighthouse. It will guide my client’s team as they navigate the challenges of closing up one year and kickstarting the next.

My client’s team instantly rallied around the theme, and it’s helping to shape their sales, marketing, and operational efforts. One simple phrase has given them a sense of direction and purpose during a time when things can often feel a little chaotic.

Identifying and Declaring a Theme: The Basics

First, spend a bit of time reflecting. Not too much time; I know you’re busy! But a little bit of big-picture thinking is always a good idea.

What inspires you? What’s been on your mind? Capture it; focus on it.

It could be a strength that you want to build on. Maybe it involves a desire for better work-life balance, which is something I hear a lot from the entrepreneurs I work with.

Or it might be one of those long-held goals that keep bouncing around in your head. What are you really itching to achieve? Conversely, what’s really weighing on your mind, making you toss and turn at night? Go after that goal, or tackle that problem.

Here’s an important caveat: Try to find something that isn’t purely financial. Don’t try to push all your chips on something like “Grow revenues by 50%.” As worthy as that could be a goal, as a theme, it doesn’t tell us much.

Aim for something more value based that can help you and your team make decisions and prioritize activities.

Then, once you’ve identified the theme, write it down. Print it big. Share it with your employees, your partners, your spouse, everyone you know. They’ll help hold you to it.

Keep in mind that elevating a theme doesn’t mean you’re going to ignore all the other stuff. But it will help keep you centered on something that’s more important than day-to-day drills.

You can inspire and engage your team to reach new heights. And as I hope you can see here, getting started is pretty easy. Make it current, make it concise and make it count!

So, what’s your theme?

Feel free to share your ideas or give me a call if you’d like a little help brainstorming.

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