Narrow your focus and define your goals

A friend recently sought my advice because she could not understand why one of her businesses was not doing well. I gave her some pretty harsh feedback, but then I had to.

She is a cafe owner who also invests and manages other non-related businesses on the side such as a management consultancy. In addition, she has a full-time government job – one that she is considering leaving to focus on her business. So when she called me she was confused: she could not fathom why her cafe business was not achieving the results she had hoped for.

When she first launched the business, it had no particular focus. It was primarily a takeaway entity but if an opportunity arose to provide catering for a specific occasion, she would. She also has several branches, with each cafe’s look completely different. They lacked a common theme and feel and each had a different menu.

The bottom line here is not defining your business as clearly as you can. And this is what I told her.

Imagine if you had an empty store destined to be a restaurant. If you did not have a set theme, it could be anything. It could be buffet restaurant or a takeaway, offer a budget-friendly menu or be a fine dining establishment that only 5 per cent of the population can afford. It does not matter. The point is that it could be anything because it has not been assigned to something.

The same thing applies to entrepreneurs who market their business by saying: “We help you reach your potential”. That is a vague statement and it could be applied to any venture from an educational centre to a management consultancy. This also applies to: “We help you stand out from the crowd”. An equally vague mission statement, it could refer to a beauty business, a branding agency or a web developer.

It does not mean that a business must only target its offering to a niche market, but it should make what they offer clear and specific to ensure customers are not confused about what the business actually is.

This reminded me of when I first started to run some communications and marketing projects. My mentor would ask me to zone in on particular projects over others. “Focus on one or two aspects that you’re really good at,” he would say. “You’ll find that that works out better for you,” He was right. The outcome was solid and I did not feel burnt out from trying to do too much. Now I know what to do with my business, and what I should not.

If you are starting a business, find out what your area of focus will be. If you’re launching a marketing agency, for example, specify what kind of sectors your agency will serve. Will it cater to retail or the financial industry? Will you provide strategies for traditional marketing approaches or will your focus be social media?

I had dinner with a group of friends who work at a communications agency. They provide PR services for their clients in the financial sector. We were discussing the rising demand of social media management by many companies, and they mentioned that even though they appreciate the high demand, that is not their area of expertise. Instead, they refer their clients to sister companies that solely focus on social media. They said that PR is their strength, therefore that is their continued focus.

If, however, you find yourself in a situation similar to my entrepreneur friend, then I suggest reevaluating what you do. Sit down and determine what your strength areas are, what you should focus on, and what is weighing your business down.

My friend is currently in the process of rebranding her business and providing a unified offer across all her outlets. She is also shedding unnecessary expenses and focusing on her cafe’s strengths.

Do you find yourself chasing every opportunity that comes your way? Focus on a few areas that could deliver great outcomes, and channel your strengths to it. As my mentor told me once, you will find that is a better strategy in the long run.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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