Rabbits, focus & flexibility

At Growthtown last week I gave a brief talk on focus and flexibility and a key idea that came up was that of rabbits.

Startups need balance – but it is hard to balance focus on competing needs, lack of resources, maintaining cashflow momentum, while staying flexible to respond to opportunities.

Focus requires discipline, which is not always a popular word these days. In a business context it requires:

  • Goals
  • Plans
  • Strategy & tactics
  • Metrics
  • Key performance indicators
  • Decision making process
  • Defined roles & responsibilities

But you still need to chase rabbits! Rabbits are: Unplanned business opportunities that you chase as & when they arise to maintain cash flow momentum.

But there’s a problem with rabbits! Unplanned business opportunities can distract you from focusing on your defined business goals & strategy.

The challenge is: How to balance pursuit of opportunistic business without losing focus on your business goals?

Part of the solution is an effective business plan. Because if you don’t have a plan then you can’t assess when to chase rabbits, and you also don’t know which rabbits are not worth chasing.

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Image courtesy of @firstdogonmoon

Some of the basics that need to be in place to allow a business to focus are:

  • Predetermine rules for decision making – input rights v. decision making rights
  • Understand key metrics driving the business
  • Track progress against goals
  • Refocus based on results

Some other important elements that enable flexibility:

  • Role clarity is key! – Who does what & when
  • Values etc must align with the set goals
  • Communication is important – What information must be shared & what information is private

Above all flexibility is based on discipline. Yoga is a best example of this principle. Focused practice of the basic principles mean that after a time yoga adherents are highly flexible, even more important they are strong. And that is what we want for our businesses.