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The big-league secret to business is focus, focus, focus

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 13 2012 6:44 a.m. MST

Editor's note: This article was originally published in Alan’s weekly Forbes column.

It’s not a big surprise that big-league baseball players can hit a pitch far better than the rest of us. Research on the game’s best hitters has shown they have excellent hand-eye coordination and can respond quickly to visual cues. Indeed, one of the keys to a superior ball-player’s performance is excellent vision and focus that allow him to see a baseball perfectly as it travels at high velocity toward home plate.

Consider these facts: It takes approximately 0.4 seconds for the fastest pitches to reach the batter’s box. In that short time, the batter needs to view the pitch, determine rotation, speed and angle of flight, and almost immediately make a swift decision to swing or to hold. Noting that the swing itself takes approximately 0.2 seconds and that the brain takes about 0.03 seconds to process the event, a skilled batter has about 0.17 seconds to act.

Baseball players who have achieved greatness at the plate have done so by persistently keeping their eyes on the goal at hand: connecting with the ball.

Entrepreneurs must likewise keep their eyes and focus on their companies. They achieve greatness by avoiding any situations that might distract them. As such, they must constantly and tightly fix their visions on the most important components of their enterprises. From my experience, the following business areas deserve daily and unflagging attention:

  • Customers
  • Solutions
  • Money
  • People
  • Priorities
  • Resources
  • Processes
Let’s delve deeper into why these areas of focus are so incredibly important to any business.

Customers: Customers are the life blood of a company. They buy your products and services and provide your organization with revenues. As business owners, you should spend a good portion of our day listening to customers and potential buyers. Ask how they feel about our products, pricing, service, support, warranties and the overall buying experience. Learn what product improvements they want and how they feel about our competition. Keeping an eye — or two — on the customer is a critical task.

Solutions: To satisfy your customers and keep them happily buying, you need to design and build products that surprise and delight. Whether you sell high-end, value-added products or simple commodities, buyers should feel they have purchased something that will take care of their needs. You should spend time each day assessing the viability, relevance and performance of the products you make and deliver to customers

Money: Successful entrepreneurs focus on the flow of money in and out of their companies. You need to watch revenues, margins, expenses and profits, and know how much money you have in the bank each day and which bills need to be paid and when. Never miss payroll. Carefully anticipate the need for further capital or loans for working capital and growth. To succeed in your businesses, the topic of money needs to be at the top of your mind.

People: Every company needs employees to carry out business assignments. You should spend a portion of our day visiting with your valued workers to learn if they are engaged, well-trained, customer-focused and results-driven. Recognize employees who excel and help those that need improvement. Interviewing, hiring, training and motivating new employees are also regular tasks that every manager should perform.

Priorities: Award-winning entrepreneurs know what needs to be done and are focused on it — and this should be your mantra as well. You should develop company-wide and personal “must-do” lists that you monitor daily. You must learn to be disciplined in your actions. Everyone has limits, so you must delegate assignments to other workers with experience and skill. Lastly, you need to learn to manage time and resist unnecessary and distracting situations.

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