The ten commitments of focus
20 February, 2013
Life is short, so concentrate on making a difference: that's a good philosophy to live by, says Jim Sullivan, and it works just as well for your business as it does in the wider world
"I have bad news and I have good news," said the airline pilot over the PA system. "We've lost our direction, but we are getting there very fast."
Focus is as critical as food safety for a restaurant operator’s success. It is a discipline-centred skill, and challenging to achieve. As a business principle, it is harder to pick up than a watermelon seed on a linoleum floor, especially given this multitasking Age of Interruption we now live and work in. But what exactly to focus on? Aye, there’s the rub ...
When companies start strong and stay strong, it is because they focused on the right things relative to their brand’s core values and market niche. When they veer off course, and business sputters, it is because focus was lost or diffused by hubris, greed, or ineptitude. And sometimes success can be the worst focus-killer of all, causing restaurants to try to be everything to everybody. Volume can hide a multitude of sins, and taking your eye off the ball is one of them.
Knowing where to focus starts by asking the right questions. For instance, Starbucks did not design their US business plan by asking: “Will customers pay $4 for a cup of coffee?” Because customers would naturally say no. Instead of price, they focused on place. They asked: “What kind of place would customers want to go to besides home and work to interact, socialise or satisfy a craving that wasn’t alcohol-based?” The “third place” was born, and the rest was history.
Focus is not the sole domain of the executive suite. It has to be ingrained in each unit’s systems, process and people. Focus means clarity, but it is also about inspiring a shared vision. Focus is not just “wanting to win”, it is the willingness to prepare to win. Focus is not just being committed, it is being accountable. Focus is not just pointing in the right direction, but following the roadmap.
Lack of focus can quickly become a core competency for a stumbling brand. So to help you keep your eyes on the prize, here is a list of critical focal points abridged from my book Multiunit Leadership: The 7 Stages of Building High-Performing Markets and Teams. I call them the Ten Commitments of Focus.
1 We will sweat the small stuff, so our customers don't have to.
2 We recognise that the more we spend on training, the less we spend on marketing. We will work hard to make every team member feel and be competent.
3 We will provide our teams with a clear sense of purpose, direction and progress. We will over-communicate about the things that matter most. Details need direction.
4 We recognise that every team member's job is important and dependent on another team member's job. We will create a work environment based on respect, well-being and dignity for everyone, and surround ourselves with People who Give a Damn.
5 We will give back to our community because we are part of it.
6 We know that service is our invisible product. It is free and we will heap it on every guest.
7 We will first consider the guest impact and team impact when making any major business decision.
8 We will continuously improve, and say "yes" to opportunities that reinforce our core values and "no" to the ones that don't.
9 We know that no one can predict the future but that together, we can create it.
10 Though we may not always succeed, we promise to do our best to make today ridiculously amazing for our team and our customers.
Life is short. Why not spend your time making a difference by focusing on the things that truly make a difference?