When starting one’s business, a set of people will advice you to keep a sharp focus when it comes to offerings or purpose. Another group might suggest offering as many products or services as possible, to minimize risk. And both groups could defend their views till the cows come home.
However, in most cases, it is most prudent for you to start your venture with a relatively sharp focus, ideally with 1 offering. So that means, you can’t start an eCommerce site and try to rival Amazon’s breadth of categories on day 1. But it also doesn’t mean you start with offering only women’s’ jackets on your e-store. It could mean a focus on selling the latest European fashion online, in which case, that, is your focus. It’s what your customers should know you for.
It doesn’t mean the company should not diversify. What it does mean, is it should diversify within the sharp focus. When you need an app built, will you remember the person who builds apps? Or will you remember someone who builds apps, does web development, content development and social media marketing among other things?
Being an automotive company that builds premium sports cars is memorable. Being a auto manufacturer who builds low-cost hatchbacks, premium sedans and rugged SUVs on day 1 will not register in a customer’s mind.
While a lot of startups struggle to sharpen focus, a lot of older companies too, lose focus with each passing year. And it affects growth, whether or not they acknowledge or even realize it.
A scene from one of my favourite movies, Andaz Apna Apna perfectly captures the thoughts an unfocused mind.
Three days ago, I was rushing to office after a meeting. The day somehow seemed very different. Special, in an inexplicable way. The meeting had gone well too. While waiting at a signal light, lost in the magical voice of the very beautiful Amy MacDonald singing ‘Your time will come’, when I suddenly noticed a teacher of mine from school, standing on the other side of the road. I recognized her instantly, despite not having seen her in over sixteen years. She seemed to be waiting for a cab.
She was one of a few favorite teachers I had in school, which is why I perhaps recognized her instantly. Not that I was her favorite student, or that she was lenient and kind. It was, in fact the contrary. She was one of the few teachers who was really strict; the no-nonsense kind. She used to be notorious, if I may, for her habit of twisting the ear of students who created trouble or didn’t finish homework. I had been on the receiving end of this treatment on several occasions.
Over the years, I often wondered why I have so much respect for her and a few other teachers who too, happened to be equally strict if not more. And one strong logical reason that emerged, seemed to be something to do with how they taught. It had something to do with the sheer passion the had for the work they did. Teaching. And I guess that’s what made them great teachers.
These few teachers showed a resolute and relentlessly effort towards educating a somewhat difficult-to-handle bunch of children. What set them apart was probably that they never diverted their purpose from teaching, nor give up on us students, however much we tested their patience. They never held grudges. And best of all, their efforts towards their objective was unwavering and true.
A lot has changed over the years when it comes to teaching, discipline, not hitting children, and so on. And I’m not really am expert on the rights, wrongs and different methods to teach, discipline and mould growing children. But I think the focus and dedication these few teachers showed, had effectiveness written all over it.
I was to take a right turn at the signal, but quickly made a u-turn instead. I stopped the car beside her, lowered the window and said, “ma’am, you probably wouldn’t recognize me, but I’m a student of yours, Shrutin Shetty“. She said she remembered the name. After some insisting, she gave me the privilege of driving her home. It seemed insignificant a gesture for the efforts of a great teacher.
Had I ever enlisted in the army, teachers like her would have been akin to a commanding officer. I had read somewhere about how soldiers are the true salt of the land, and how the training broke them down and rebuilt them into the refined beings they are. That’s exactly what teachers like her had been doing over the years, batch after batch.
As I dropped her off, she asked me why I didn’t visit school. I had only been there once in the sixteen years. All I could tell her was, that I will. The real reason I hadn’t gone there, however, has been because in my head, I had set an expectation that my teachers would have of us students. Expectations in terms of us reaching our full potential, making a mark for ourselves. And I still have a long way to go to achieve expectations I felt my teachers would expect from me, ones that would make them proud.
What I didn’t realize in these sixteen years though, is that while I have been busy working on my dreams, and much time will have passed before I get there, but time had not been waiting. This teacher of mine said she’s retiring soon. Not sure how many of the other teachers already had retired. When, where and how would I meet them. Be able to share stories of my trials and experiences from my journey, hear their stories about this long and disconnected gap in time. Such was the predicament that held my thoughts on my drive back.
And through the numerous people in life that I have had the pleasure of knowing, I will always be grateful and indebted to this small elite set of them, people like this teacher of mine. For however insignificant I may still be, they have played a crucial role in making me who I am today. Their undivided efforts towards teaching, indirectly taught me the type of focus it will take to achieve my dreams. And my estimation of their expectation of me will always keep me aiming higher.
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