Business underperformance and the shiny object syndrome

A lack of focus is one of the major traps that business owners (especially new and aspiring entrepreneurs) can and do fall into.

You see, entrepreneurs are typically imaginitive people full of ideas. In fact they usually have so many ideas they don’t know where to start – and more importantly – how to finish.

I have heard over and over again that the difference between an entrepreneur and a wanna-be is that the entrepreneur takes action where the wanna-be somehow doesn’t seem to get out of the starting gate, regardless of the merits of their ideas. And I agree.

Entrepreneurs do indeed differ from the wanna-be’s because they take action (often massive action) and they back themselves. They take a gamble on themselves.

This is a good thing. Actually no, it’s a great thing. Without massive action nothing would get done. however;

These same entrepreneurs who are willing to take massive action and back themselves often have many – and I mean a LOT – of ideas. Some good. Others less so. But lots of ideas nevertheless.

And these ideas can be a problem, in and of themselves, if they lead to something I call the ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’.ShinyObect

What is the ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ anyhow?

Good question – which is easy to answer. It’s the next “big idea” the next “breakthrough” the next “big profit, zero effort’ idea.

And it distracts the entrepreneur. It causes him to lose focus. It causes him to attempt to do too many things at once.

And the consequence thereof? They either don’t complete any of the ideas or they do several (or all) of them poorly. They divide their focus and attention between too many ideas and fail to deliver properly on any of them!

It’s like a kid in a toy store – his (or her) senses are so overwhelmed by the massive choice that they run from one toy to another. Picking it up, Seeing something even ‘cooler’, dropping the toy they currently have as they run off to the next interesting, cool or fun toy.

KidInAToyStoreAnd they do this again and again leaving a trail of abandoned toys strewn across the floor – and they don’t seem satisfied. Nor did they have an opportunity to really enjoy and explore the toys they had in their hands along the way.

You can picture the kids excitement… there’s like this ‘ooooh ooooh ooooh’ – until they see the next toy and its ‘ooooh ooooh ooooh’ all over again.

Business ‘should’ be simple. Take the idea (the best one you have) and take massive action. Imagine it, Create it. Live it.

And remain focussed on it! Stay the course long enough for it to bear fruit. Give it the time, effort and attention that it deserves. Don’t get caught up with ‘the next big thing’ – it will only detract from your current project and will likely cause both ideas to fail (at worst) or to be executed poorly (at best).

If it cannot be measured it cannot be managed.

That is not to say you should stay married to a bad idea. Or an idea or business that is failing / not succeeding. Not at all. But how do you know if it can or will succeed if you aren’t giving it your full and undivided attention and effort? Short answer: You won’t.

So you may walk away from a great idea simply because you executed poorly as a result of your distraction.

So when should you consider abandoning your idea? That comes back to measurement. You need to have set realistic milestones for yourself in terms of where you will be, what you will have achieved and where your financials are expected to be – by when.

If you are not hitting your target re-evaluate. Are my assumptions still correct? Has the business environment changed and if so, how? Have factors worked for or against me – like legislation or rates of exchange or the competition.businessgoals

Was I realistic in my expectations? Was I too wishful?

It requires a lot of introspection and a deep sense of self-honesty to answer those questions truthfully but to do any less means you are simply deceiving yourself.

If your assumptions were incorrect or factors in the business enviroment have changed guage their impact and adjust your forecast accordingly. How do things look now? Are you closer to your goal? If yes it may well be worth pressing on, measuring, assessing and evaluating as you go.

If your initial forecasts were accurate and you still haven’t met your targets and are well short (having given it your all in terms of time, attention and effort) well then it may be time to rethink or even abandon that particular idea.

Remember: You must plan. You must execute. You must measure. For it is only through these objective measurements that you can make informed management decisions.

In woodworking they say ‘measure twice, cut once’. In other words – check, double check and then execute.

Now go and take your best idea – subect it to careful scrutiny and set realistic goals. If things still make sense and the idea appears to be worthwhile – FOCUS and pursue it. Measure and evaluate as you go.

If it doesn’t go back to the drawing board.

Whatever you do please do not get lost chasing one good idea after another – don’t get caught in that ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’!

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