News and Insights

Asymmetrical Focus

If adding a third child to your family teaches you anything, it’s that how you focus your time matters.  I’m writing this from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), our 3-week-old spiked a fever  and we were sent to the ER and now NICU for a few days.  He’s battling something, and the scary concerns have been ruled out.  At some point I’ll need to make a personal post or review of CCHMC, this place and its staff are beyond incredible and beyond words.  We’re so fortunate to have a place like CCHMC in our backyard.  Also, did I mention our power has been out the last three days?

Now…this is NOT a pity party post.  Far from it.  We are very fortunate, and I’m particularly fortunate to have the support of partners like Brent, Mono, and Tom while dealing with all of this (shout out to Christina Thomas too for covering for me).  But when I sat down to write this post three days ago, it was going to be about how to allocate your focus while dealing with chaos (when the A/C went out).  But over the last 72+ hours the barrage of complexifiers in life have been unceasing.  This is no different than when you are an operator of a business.  Personal life and professional life blend and the highs are high and the lows are low.  So how do you even begin to think five or ten years down the road when you want to sell your business, when all you can do in periods of lows is keep taking one step forward at a time?

At RKCA, our mission statement is “A life’s work, realized.”™  Meaning, through the clients we serve we recognize that it’s your life’s work and we aspire to help you have an outcome realized that maximizes all the needs you have (personal, financial, professional, etc.).  Over the course of our 36 years with business owners, as owners ourselves, and over the last 72 hours of my life, we’ve learned how you apply your focus matters more than how much of it you have.

Everyone knows that focus is important, but not all focus is equal.  Telling someone to “focus more” is no more beneficial than “get better at decision making.”  Common advice…useless in practice.

Often, we find on our initial assessment of a client, that they are treating all decisions the same.  They’ll spend as much time trying to decide a trivial question versus a major one.  This behavior seems, in my opinion, is worse when there is increased complexity in the business.  Anyone can sail when the waters are calm.  But when the complexities are increasing all around you as an owner, it’s even harder in that noise to asymmetrically focus.  We’ve seen CEOs with businesses heading into a distressed situation put more of their time into website tweaks and updates and less into cost savings and sales execution.

So how do you better asymmetrically focus?  It’s my opinion that success is one indicator.  Asymmetrical focus is overlooked when you hear of a success story, most often people attribute success to a high degree of luck or a luck event.  “Oh did you hear about what Jim and Shawn made out with after they sold?  They got lucky with where the market was at.”   Well…no.  Jim and Shawn (real clients, made up names) had asymmetrical focus.  They dealt with the items that mattered in their business (topline growth, efficiencies in their production process) and focused less on issues that were not value maximizers (no buyer pays up for a great website).

Often the issues to focus on are in plain sight.  For business owners, the visible problem seems to be lack of focus but in reality it’s hiding in plain sight, it’s just hard to know WHERE to focus.  In our experience, tools like Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) are incredibly helpful.  We’ve deployed EOS across our portfolio companies, use EOS on the Boards we serve on as advisors, and some in our firm are even using EOS in their personal lives.  Having a Board of Advisors around you is critical too.  A BOA helps you identify those areas WHERE to focus that you may not be seeing through the noise of complexity.  Also, if the people you put on that BOA have success themselves (in your field or otherwise) that success leaves clues too you can pull from.  The RKCA Build To Sale process summarizes our learnings over decades, and includes up front assessment tools to help prospects identify focus gaps, and strategies to help better focus.

If you’re interested in learning more about asymmetrical focus, reach out, we’d love to help.


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