Note: This article also appeared in Entrepreneur Middle East, and can be viewed on the site here.
There are countless books, websites and seminars that will have us believe we need to do and manage a thousand things in order to launch and run a successful business. But if we look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs today, you’ll discover that their focus is generally always on just a few sound business fundamentals.
On one side it is certainly about keeping things simple. As much as we humans like to think we can do many things at once, we cannot. And a crowded mind on account of an unrealistic task list gets confused and leads to rash decisions, lack of focus, and in many cases a poor quality output of just about all the work being performed.
But on the other side is also this very important fact: You, as business owner and leader and chief strategist, should be focused on a few key areas above all others – areas that are geared towards company growth and market dominance. No, it does not mean you do not look at other aspects of the business, but your attention and your time always need to be focused on a few no-nonsense and practical pursuits that are ultimately your company’s building blocks in the beginning, and its foundation at all times.
Now in this article I am going to break it down into just three key areas. Sure, each of them will have a number of sub-priorities, but those sub-priorities are all just feeding into the main tasks and goals that you need to build on, maintain and evolve in order to achieve success.
You, as business owner and leader and chief strategist, should be focused on a few key areas above all others that are geared towards company growth and market dominance.
1. Building the killer product or service
We will often see Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg sitting in the middle of the room alongside his platform developers. What’s he doing there instead of locking himself away with the finance team counting those billions that are pouring in? He’s ensuring his platform, used by over 1.5 billion people (that’s 20% of the world’s population!), stays awesome. By constantly improving on existing features and introducing new ones, he’s building an incredibly engaging and user-friendly service that people are literally glued to.
Elon Musk (PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX) will tell you that although his title is CEO, he is inventor and engineer first. And we all remember how obsessed Steve Jobs was with making the perfect product. He only took it to market when he himself loved it so much he could not put it down.
The best CEOs, I believe, are all about the product or service. They have a very clear vision as to what they are there to build, who they are there to build it for, what problems it solves, and how to make it better than the competition’s offerings. Those brilliant, and yes, I will use the word once again – “obsessed” minds – never stop thinking about the myriad of features their products and services need to have.
One bit of advice here: Set your sights high. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve in business is hearing anyone say that anything less than 100% is good enough. It’s simply not. The top companies in the world strive for 100%, and you should too. What’s more, by putting yourself in the bracket of the very best, you instantly minimise the competition.
The best CEOs, I believe, are all about the product or service. They have a very clear vision as to what they are there to build, who they are there to build it for, what problems it solves, and how to make it better than the competition’s offerings.
2. Building the killer team
Imagine a world where you have the most talented, intelligent team of people working as a cohesive unit to help you realise your vision. Now imagine one where you have a team that is full of holes, delivers mediocre work, and doesn’t seem to care all that much. Well, with the latter you are no way and no how ever going to be able to build a great company.
The long and the short of it is this: While it sounds obvious, too many company leaders make way too many compromises on the recruitment front. It’s one of those tasks that many people simply don’t like to do. But whether you have a small company where you alone are the main recruiter, or a big one where your HR department is doing the heavy lifting, you need to know that the best CEOs are all about ensuring that only the top recruits are hired.
And make no mistake, it is something you have to commit to. It has to be part of your company philosophy. Everyone at the company needs to know that they only made the cut because they were that good, and everyone involved in the recruiting process needs to know that compromise is not allowed. If you live by this, over time you will actually get a reputation in the marketplace for being the company that has the best talent, and the best will start to seek you out. That is, the best will come knocking at your door, asking to join your fine company.
Too many company leaders make way too many compromises on the recruitment front.
3. The killer marketing mindset
For me there will always be this great unknown when it comes to marketing: Is something selling like crazy because it is an awesome product or service and it is brilliantly marketed, or is it selling like crazy simply because it is an awesome product? Whatever the answer to that, I am going to tell you that the best CEOs, in addition to knowing how to build the best products and get the best people, also know how to create incredible marketing buzz. They are born marketers.
But to harp on this point again, this will always be a chicken and egg mystery for me. I mean if we build great products because our passion and vision are driving us towards that, then our genuine passion is going to spill over into our marketing and sales activities. The fact is this: Your marketing and sales abilities are directly tied to your passion for your product or service. If you love what you have built or love what you deliver, that is going to come out in the form of contagious excitement that gets the marketplace interested.
And all of this is also then driving your sales team and the way they do their work and the way they communicate with prospects; and of course it drives your marketing department and the marketing agencies you work with. Everyone involved is going to get bitten by the “marketing mindset enthusiasm bug”, and in so doing you will have rounded out the third of the three foundational pillars needed in order to build an incredible business.
Making it look simple
For me it is really that simple. These three things are what you need to focus on if you want to build a great company. And yes, sure, just because something is simplified in words doesn’t mean the carrying out of it is easy. Not by a longshot. This is hard work, my friends, and your mind will be racing non-stop as you look to build your company to perfection.
But do think of these three priorities as the legs on a stool that you have to always keep firmly in place. If one is weak enough, the stool may fall over, with the message being that each is equally as important as the other two. And when they are all strong, you’ll feel it, and it will feel good. So find your rhythm and maintain it, never rest on your laurels, and march on. Success is waiting for you.