You may or may not be familiar with American football. For me, it is as much as part of my life as entrepreneurship, so let’s start with the basics.
Blocking and Tackling
Any championship football team excels at these two things. Blocking is what you need to win on offense, and tackling is what you need to win on defense. At the end of the day, these two things are the only things that matter in football.
Entrepreneurship Ideas vs. Execution
In American Football, everybody copies each other offensive and defensive scheme if it is the hot thing working around the league.
Whether it’s the Wildcat or the West Coast on offense, or the Tampa 2 or zone blitz on defense.
If it works, it will be copied.
The same goes with ideas in business. Your competition will copy your idea if you prove it works.
Execution is about blocking and tackling. Execution can’t be copied.
Execution is the fundamentals. Ideas come and go. You don’t win with ideas, you win with execution.
What is the equivalent of blocking and tackling in business: Marketing and customer service.
So there is the answer to the age old business question. What is execution? Execution is marketing and customer service.
Be good at those two things, and you have a better than average chance of winning. Be great at those two things, and you will win.
On the other hand, get those two things wrong and you have no chance at all.
Focus is a major theme any savvy mentor will school a new entrepreneur on. The ability to focus is so critical, it typically decides the winners and losers in every industry. The reason for this is two-fold:
- If you are a jack of all trades but a master of none, then no one will know why to choose your business over a competitor. This is a recipe for mediocrity
- If your focus is wrong, the entire market could pass you by
The secret is that #2 is less risk that #1. It is better to focus and potentially miss the market than to have a mediocre business that goes sideways.
Why? Because focus is a necessary ingredient for hitting a homerun.
I found an excellent post covering this topic on the Openview Leadership Lab blog titled Get Disruptive: A Bold Strategy for Taking Down Your Big Competitors. The key takeaway for that blog post is the following:
What happens when you take a magnifying glass and focus the sun’s energy on a single small spot on the ground? The spot burns.
The same fundamental principal applies to the way companies leverage their internal focus, talents, and resources.
The Openview Lab’s post goes on to provide 4 tips to help “ensure you’re aiming your magnifying glass at the right target.”
Please read the full post here to help you digest this critical concept.
One of the biggest fears all entrepreneurs have is that someone will copy their idea. I talk about that here and here, so we have a good framework for how to view “idea stealing.” However, there is still this burning desire in all of us to spend a lot of money on a huge launch so you can take as much market share as possible before competitors know what hit them.
This is a good idea in theory, but the founder of Justin.tv and Execu Justin Kan councels otheriwise. He States:
Remember, everything you are building today will be killed or iterated. The former is more likely than the latter. Great products are created by many incremental improvements.
In other words, what you’re about to spend tons of money launching will probably not be a full solution to your customer’s problems. Therefore, it’s better to spend time with a small cohort of early adopters iterating on your solution instead of wasting time on a huge launch that has a good chance of being a disappointment.
Read Justin’s full post titled Divine Inspiration Fallacy on his blog to get the full understanding of his advice.
I really came across a gem of knowledge last night before bed. I was checking out David Cancel’s blog and lucky for me he hasn’t updated it since last December, and his last post was probably his best advice (maybe he is waiting to top it before he adds another post).
The title of Cancel’s post is Customer (not Competitor) Focused. His basic premise is summed up in this quote:
My advice to this entrepreneur was the same advice I gave my team every day at Performable: “Focus on customers, not competitors. If we do that, we’ll win.” Writing software is the how, not the why.
The mantra that you should focus on customer’s instead of competition is not unique. What did jump out at me as a gem, however, was the last statement that software is the how, not the why. Being a software engineer, thinking about this quote kept me up all night trying to put it into perspective. Reorienting your thinking to focus on the why rather than your product I think is game changing.