Internal Factor


Keeping the main thing the main thing.

Common responses relating to focus:

“Our competitive differentiation is shrinking.”
“The loyalty of our customers is declining.”
“It’s difficult for prospects to tell us apart from other companies like us.”
“We don’t know our place in the market.”

Companies tend to lose their focus either through hubris, overreaching because they believe they can do no wrong, or by responding to a changing marketplace by losing sight of what makes them distinct. Either way, it’s one of the main culprits of internal discord and stagnation.

Eye on the ball.

Focus might be harder to maintain today than in any other period in history. Entire industries rise and fall within the lifespan of a TV series. A quick Google search (or a Chat GPT inquiry) can give you millions of data points—likely pulling you in a million directions. Five minutes on your phone can expose you to a litany of new trends, new values, new perspectives, new opportunities…all bringing the sickening feeling that you’re falling behind, missing out, and losing relevance.

But winners stay focused. The US Men’s Eight rowing crew took Gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia largely because each team member organized his entire life around the question, “Will it make us go faster?” Steve Jobs wore the same black turtleneck every day to eliminate distractions in the pursuit of innovation. Tom Brady’s personal fitness regimen is nearly as legendary as his athletic performance. For decades, no aspect of his existence was not in tune with his objectives on the gridiron.

Strategic decisions are often cast in terms of right and wrong—you try to “solve” this business problem (as though it’s a ninth-grade algebra test) or kick yourself for making the “wrong” move. But the reality is that there are numerous viable strategies available to any organization. That’s a freeing reality, not a paralyzing one. Unsuccessful organizations will bounce inconsistently from one strategy to another, never fully committing, always trying to guess which one is “right,” as though business were an elaborate lottery ticket.

But the successful stay focused. Netflix was founded in 1997, was laughed out of the room by Blockbuster in a desperate attempt to sell the company in 2000, first turned a profit in 2003, and had the last laugh when Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010. That’s a great boardroom story, but it’s almost impossible to imagine the grit and determination it took to stay diligently and relentlessly focused on a single model for that entire time: for six years in the red, for three years after being openly mocked by the titans of the industry, and for a full decade in which the jury was still out on who would prove to be right. We tend to celebrate rockstar entrepreneurs for the magnitude of their ideas. We should instead revel in – and seek always to emulate – their singular focus.

How focused are you?

In less than five minutes, we can get a quick read on how your brand’s focus stacks up against thousands of other businesses.