Success Requires Focus
by Wendy Priesnitz

Q: I need some advice for dealing with a timid small business partner and a banker who lacks vision. I have started a number of small businesses over the years, so I clearly know what I'm doing. Our industrial distributorship is two years old and doing okay. But it could be doing a lot better with a bit of bravery. I have some great ideas for widely diversifying the product line and integrating a bunch of other services. I also think we should buy another company that I just heard is for sale, so we can take advantage of the fact that they are the only service in their field. I'm sure some of our staff could sell for both. Do I need a new partner and banker, or is there a way to bring them onside?

A: Entrepreneurs tend to be good at getting ideas, recognizing opportunities and starting businesses. They are often not very good at managing, which takes a different set of skills. It also takes patience, which is often in short supply among entrepreneurs.

Wisdom and success lie in recognizing your strengths and admitting your weaknesses - yes we all have them. Then give yourself permission to do what you do best and find other people whose skills complement yours.

My advice is to temporarily put on hold your entrepreneurial tendency to see opportunities behind every lamp post. Two years is not a long time to be in business. Now is the time to focus on your core enterprise, not diversify into a variety of unrelated ones.

Get organized, stop blaming others, and analyze what has to be done to keep your business growing and put it on a firm path for the future. Diversifying into a new area might be part of that. Or not. You'll only find out by doing some research and revising your business plan. If it still looks like a good idea, your partner and banker will probably be onside.

If you aren't disciplined enough or don't feel you can muster the effort to keep slogging along without the adrenaline hit that comes from always being in the start-up phase of your small business, then hire a manager. Or sell the business to your partner and move on altogether.

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