Is Focus an Overrated Ingredient of Business Success?

by Euan Mackenzie

Is it possible for a company to make a really good living from being creative, making stuff and enjoying your work, without focusing on one particular market or technology?

Most of the team at 1partCarbon have been making software for many years, and are good at it. To get the business started it seemed reasonable to make great software. We felt that to differentiate ourselves and keep things interesting we should not confine ourselves to one approach, language or solution but to use what was best suited to the task in hand.  

Also the idea of only making software seemed limiting. We have all wanted to be able to turn up to work one day and say wouldn’t it be cool to make or do X. X could be anything. X would just need to fit the ethos of the company, have the potential to be sold for more than it cost to make and get a thumb’s up from the team. Most importantly X didn’t necessarily need to be software related.  

This approach to growing the business has proved liberating, enjoyable, intellectually stimulating and reasonably successful. We keep the business process simple while doing difficult and diverse stuff for our customers and ourselves.

It also contradicts one of the oft-repeated mantras of the start-up world that you must have focus.

One of the things we have tried to avoid at 1partCarbon is too much focus. Focus on any one technological solution, any one product or service, any one sector or any one kind of business.  

From the little I have read about business and start-ups ‘focus’ is a mantra amongst the cognoscenti of the start-up sector. It is hailed as an essential ingredient of every successful start-up business. Yet I’ve never seen any compelling empirical data to back up this theory (happy to be proved wrong!). As such it makes me wonder whether focus isn’t also an ingredient of many more failed businesses that successful ones. I suspect it may be.

I think this emphasis of focus in start-up businesses stops us from looking at a broader picture, different opportunities, different markets and most of all, it seems to stifle imagination.  

I also don’t think this focus is instinctive to many start-ups. I think many new start-ups are mentored into it, slowly driven into defining themselves by narrow bunkers or sectors to meet the requirements of their bankers, investors, their professional advisors and to conform to a self serving business support structure. By emphasising the need for focus, advisors and financiers exercise control over the parameters of the business, keep it simple for themselves and in the process often snuff out the very creative spark they invested in.

No doubt focus has its time and place, and I guess those seeking finance for their innovation need to play the game, but so far we have been lucky enough to enjoy our diversity and freedom.

Euan Mackenzie

Euan Mackenzie

Euan likes making stuff and helps out with product definition, design and talking to people.

Ask him about; technology prototyping, rapid software development, mobile apps, brand development, technology funding and any ideas that you need help to build.

Don't ask him; 'how his race training is going?' unless you enjoy watching grown men cry.