(Macbeth the entrepreneur)
"Is this a shiny object which I see before me,
The easy-button toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I am distracted by thee still.
Art thou not, fatal to my vision, sensible
To feeling as my next big thing? or art thou but
A shiny object of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the purposeless brain?"
New sources of traffic, automated administrative systems, and other gadgets of every shape and size fly at entrepreneurs without mercy. In previous ages, such distractions were limited because they required a persistent salesperson or fabulous direct mail campaign to get through the gatekeepers. Now, the gates are wide open and we are besieged by constant volleys.
The drama that unfolds for everyone from the solopreneur to the corporate giant is the stuff of Shakespeare for this modern age. We seek to be bigger, better, and more profitable. The size of our business or the zeroes on our checks begin to dictate where our focus goes. But not even Billy Shakes could guess where such a tragedy leads.
When we lose sight of our purposeful vision, we lose sight of our destination and sense of direction. Everything begins to look like a solution or "better way." We give our attention to shiny objects that will solve problems we aren’t trying to solve or improve systems we don’t even have.
Instead of staying on task by knowing what we want and why, we start accumulating stuff just in case we need it.
It’s similar to a sail boat in the middle of the ocean and we let go of the wheel and throw the compass overboard. Our course is dictated by the strongest winds and currents. We go wherever they take us and often to an unwanted end.
Don Milley and his company, iParents.com sailed such a course. Way back in the old days, 2008, Milley founded iParents as "a place where family members would be able to interact with each other online, share schedules, news, photos and coordinate activities.” At the time, Facebook was just beginning to appeal to the middle-aged set and iParents was actually getting a foothold.
Within nine months of launching they had 70,000 members and had investors ready to plunk down $3 million if they could grow to 100,000 members. That seems to be where the Macbethean madness set in and the shiny objects took hold.
Instead of staying focused on their core mission of building a community for parents and families, they diverted to things like text-message appointment-reminders and turning photos into refrigerator magnets. Realizing they had tempted the fates and were losing, they paid $18,000 to a company to run a photo contest for them and never heard from the company again. Ding-dong went the death knell.
iParents shut its doors in 2010.
Let’s go back to the original premise and challenge. The purposeful vision was to create a social network for parents and families. At the time, this concept was strong enough that they went from 0 to 70,000 in nine months. That’s pretty impressive. All they were asked to do to secure substantial funding was show growth of 30,000 more.
"Oh but PJ… 30,000 more people is a lot."
From zero, yes. From 70,000, no. If I asked you to take your existing 7 members and get 3 more, you’d would say, "no problem." To go from 70,000 and get 30,000 more is the same process. The numbers aren’t the issue, the lack of focus is.
For iParents, the same as for any of us, we have to be intimate with our purposeful vision and stay aware of what we are working for. All of our decisions must come from that same purposeful vision so our attention is toward opportunities and solutions that keep us on track.
What do you want and why? If your eye is drawn by the flash and flicker of something new, ask yourself very simple questions. "Will this have an immediate impact on accomplishing my purposeful vision?" "Can I apply this NOW and solve what I’m working NOW?"
If the answer to either is "No," back away and move on. If you think it can help later, make a note of it. I promise it will be available later if it is still relevant. Stay on point and deny the shiny objects.