Why your business and the buffet table don’t mix


Freedom to do whatever you want is a beautiful thing. But only if you can handle that freedom by not doing everything you want all the time.

Its like going to a buffet. Often we tend to overeat when we go to them, just because we can eat whatever we set our eyes on. But eating buffet style regularly probably isn’t the wisest choice when it comes to your health. Or your waistline.

Ninety-seven percent of the time I eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast. Very predictable and unexciting. I choose one of those two options because they’re quick, healthy (I think), and I like them.

But while in India earlier this year, I found myself in a hotel that had a ginormous breakfast buffet. Of course they had oatmeal and cereal as options, but why would I limit myself to my boring and predictable staples when I could have a waffle, an omelette, fresh fruit, idly, dim sum, and curry and rice? So I ate all of those things. For three days at that buffet I put everything that was pleasing to my eyes on my plate. It didn’t matter that all that food at one time wasn’t good for me. My judgement was clouded by the buffet table fog.

The buffet table fog can happen to you as a business owner if you’re not careful. When you have a blank slate from which to build your business, it may seem like the options are limitless for places to give your energy and resources to serve your customers. And it may be tempting to put as much as possible on your plate because it looks good and you can. But just like at the buffet, that doesn’t mean you should.

Focus. Focus. Focus.

Any activity you choose to do in your business should serve to advance you in realizing your overarching mission or purpose. The more focused you are on how you go about achieving your purpose, the greater strides you’ll be able to make toward reaching your goal.

I know it can be tough to focus at times. Especially when you learn about a business or project that seems promising, you want to you take it on. But you have to make sure it fits in with your strengths and overall business and life objectives.

Although focus may not always feel very sexy, the benefits to your business over the long-term far outweigh the immediate rush that comes from venturing into something just because its new, exciting, and available.

You get to be really great at one or two things, rather than mediocre at a bunch. When you focus your time and resources, you have more opportunity to improve your capabilities at that particular task. A key part of building a sound strategy for achieving your mission is in deciding what it is that you are going to be better at than everyone else. Of course those things should align with your natural gifts and talents, but they still need to be honed and cultivated. And your ability to nurture what makes you stand out from the pack can get diluted when you are doing a bunch of different things.

There may come a time when its does make sense to expand, and do more to serve your customers as it relates to your purpose. But that should be taken on once you have become a well oiled machine at those one or maybe two things that are your key sources of differentiation.

You get to be more efficient in working toward your end goal. You’ve only got so many hours in the day, and there’s a limit to what it is that you can accomplish. Thus, if you have a bunch of different things to work on, it’ll be hard for you to get to everything and give them the attention they deserve. And when you’re focused on fewer things, you’re more likely to be able to make greater progress toward your goals with those than if you were spreading yourself across a bunch of different areas. You don’t want your business to feel like a long list of unfinished projects.

Your customers will know what to come to you for. Your customers have a lot of noise coming at them in many different ways. So when it comes time for them to choose how to get their need met, you don’t want them having to guess about what it is that you do, and how you can help them. And if you have too many things going on, it can be easy for them to miss or overlook that thing that you do that fits them perfectly.

Don’t approach your business the way you approach the buffet table. While there are consequences of overeating at the buffet table, they’re likely not as tough to deal with as the result of putting too much on your business’ plate. Make the journey to building the business you dream of run much more smoothly by being focused about how you will reach your goals. Focus may be boring and predictable, but success is super sexy!