June 1, 2010

The Focus of Success

Filed under: 1 — Joe Grant @ 2:38 pm


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Some say success in our business has a lot to do with luck. Or hard work. Or both.

Well here’s my little aphorism for success based on years of seeing ad agencies run by many well-meaning and ambitious types. It’s not a catchy cliché but you’ll find it easy to remember: You get what you focus on.

The agencies we’d call successful — steady growth, an ever-enlarging list of 1st-class clients, a talented and respected staff, moving into better quarters every few years — get that way because they concentrate relentlessly on where they want to go.

They have an unruffled new business push — consistent, strong, and frequent. They believe in ongoing searches for exceptional talent and have a prescient staffing plan to discover stars long before they’re needed. They pour money into training because they understand hiring without a plan to improve performance is an unconscious commitment to the status quo. Their senior team leads — and doesn’t merely press for self-serving departmental agendas. And successful agencies recognize that a lofty vision statement is hollow without ruthless attention to constant improvement.

They focus on where they want to go, not just on today’s emergency client requests. Agency owners who think effective leadership is just managing a punch list of exigencies so the crisis du jour can be resolved by 6 pm are doomed to run at the rear of the pack.

On the other hand, the smart guys understand that targeting significant stuff yields multiple results. Concentrate the management corps on just a handful of essential strategies (handful is dead-on; 5 is exactly the right number of major initiatives to commit to accomplishing in a year) and you’ll arrive at your vision destination on time.

If, that is, you accept no excuses for lack of execution.

Ah, execution. It’s the getting-it-done part that takes persistence and guts. Over the years many agency owners have bent my ear complaining about how inept or intractable their key lieutenants are at accomplishing the important things… and yet they’re unwilling to hold these highly paid subordinates’ feet to the fire. Dumb.

And while I’m preaching here, chew on this for a moment: You’ll get the behavior in your company that you yourself (a) exhibit and (b) tolerate.

By the way, saying “I’m too busy” is just an excuse for perpetuating mediocrity. That’s for people unwilling to commit to what they want.

Sorry, but this always bothers me. I believe a good part of life is about pursuing happiness — dreaming your dreams then making them happen. It’s a big tell when you hear someone say, “If I just had more time.” No, it’s if you had more focus.

Exceptional people running exceptional agencies achieve their goals because, like an annoying puppy chewing on a bone, they persist in getting what they want. It’s tenacity, resolve. And focus.

Sounds a little too simple, huh. That’s exactly the point – it is simple: You get what you focus on.

What could be easier?


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  1. “I don’t have time to …?” There’s 24 hours in a day – EVERYONE’S day. We all have the same amount of time. It’s just what we choose to do with it.

    Comment by Fred Driver — June 2, 2010 @ 10:39 am

  2. Amen, Joe. A similar phrase I use is, “You are what you think about.”

    Comment by Stephen Moegling — June 2, 2010 @ 10:45 am

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