The Downside of a Single Focus in Your Entrepreneurial Journey No One Talks About
Like most of us with an entrepreneurial leaning I enjoy listening to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts related to business and self-improvement.
There is one recurring message from wildly successful people and many success guru’s… FOCUS!
In this post I am going to argue why I don’t think the focus on a single business is the optimal strategy for many. It may be the right strategy for some but based on my goals (and depending on yours) I don’t think it is the right strategy for everyone.
The Argument for FOCUS:
John Lee Dumas – One of his common sayings is FOCUS “Follow One Course Until Success” and he has certainly embodied this with a daily business interview podcast that has helped grow his business to generating over $100k/month in profit!
Warren Buffet & Bill Gates – 2 of the richest men in the world and long time friends both when they were growing their businesses identified “FOCUS” as the one attribute that most contributed to their success (see story here).
Andrew Carnegie (great autobiography I recently read) – “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket”
Many many motivational speakers talk about the benefit of Focus.
Who am I to disagree with these wildly successful people?
My Argument against Singular Focus:
First let me be clear I do believe singular focus on an overall goal is incredibly important and I have talked about this before. Understanding your why and having that being crystal clear is key! My obsessive focus on building my online business to allow me to move back to my hometown to raise my family I believe contributed to that becoming a reality. But, what I am arguing against in this post is singular focus on a SINGLE business/strategy is the right plan for most people!
The question I ask myself when devising my business and strategy is…
what strategy/decisions (single vs multiple businesses) will provide me with the highest probability of providing the life that is best for my family.
Or another way that is more generic…what is the right decision to give me the best chance of achieving whatever my “why” is?
For many people whose online business goals range from paying their mortgage with the proceeds, covering their retirement and being able to leave the day job and work online full time their financial goals are not as extreme as many of the people providing the FOCUS advice.
My issue with a single focus on a single strategy is that by its nature is often tied to a single failure point.
- 100% organic traffic sites – Google can take you out overnight
- 100% selling on Amazon FBA – Amazon can suspend you overnight
- 100% lead gen via paid traffic – New competitor or terms changing can demolish the business overnight
- 100% social media traffic – Traffic on a platform you don’t control (Facebook changes rules and business posts don’t show up as much)
- 100% dependant on affiliate relationships – Those reltaionships can change (Amazon Associate account suspension)
For those of us whose ideal lifestyle financial needs are not extreme any additional profit attached to the same failure point becomes partially redundant.
Note – If you want to be a billionaire… I doubt my advice is right for you! I would recommend following the advice of the wildly successful people above!
The people who are wildly successful Billionaires were smart enough/worked hard enough to avoid that single failure event from occurring while many others who followed a similar single focus did experience failure. The result is we have a survivor bias where we celebrate mostly those who avoided the multiple close calls with failure to achieve astronomical success.
My Solution – Income Stool Approach
If my goal is to increase the probability that I will continue to provide financial freedom to my family then any arm of my business that earns income in excess of that amount does not continue to increase that probability at the same ratio. What I am trying to say is that I would rather have 5 businesses independent of one another that all could cover my family’s financial needs then 1 business attached to a single potential failure mechanism that earns 10x what I need.
I think of this approach as an income stool… the more legs the stool has the more solid it is. If you have 5 legs and one gets chopped out (such as Amazon Associate account suspension) the stool stays standing.
What To Do If You Have a Single Failure Point in Your Business?
I have several very successful friends who run a single online business and do incredibly well.
The challenge they have the one described above…
But for them diversifying into a new business with a new skill set isn’t optimal since they are world class at their existing business model.
Solutions to Consider:
- Sell a portion of the business and take some money off the table
- Use the same skill set in a different industry
- Sell the knowledge they have through consulting to provide a revenue source independent of their single failure point
- Listen to the more successful people then me and keep focusing with their eggs in one basket and achieve wild results!
I completely agree with you. In fact, I kind of roll my eyes when people say this. I feel like you should never put all of your eggs in one basket. I have seen plenty of income streams disappear. The people that had other things going on didn’t perish. However, the ones that had invested all of their time and energy into one thing were crying and having a fit. Now I do think it is wise to know your limits and not take on more than you can chew. Great post.
A good perspective- I’ve 20x’d my affiliate earnings since I spoke with you on your free consult, but I’m also super-exposed. Trying to figure out the next leg on the stool to safeguard myself. I do think it does make sense to learn a new methodology- it keeps your skillset broad and adaptive. Especially if you begin experimenting with paid traffic you can quickly pivot if an organic traffic site is wiped out. So- I’m somewhat torn between doubling down on my existing skillset, which has proven insanely lucrative, and exploring different options, to conservatively steward my online earnings.
I’ve been washed by site update couple of times. I agree with Jon, there are factors that you cannot control. Multiple businesses will save you in the long term. But later on, you will find one cash cow business, that you should focus.
Thanks Jon, Great advice!
I’ve found it to be nearly impossible to really FOCUS on just ONE thing in online business. Shiny objects fly at you left and right and they are very difficult to avoid.
It is very beneficial to FOCUS on one thing for short periods of time… then shift that focus onto something else after that one thing is to the point that you want it. But like you side… doing this isn’t going to give you Buffet or Gates billionaire status.
I think FOCUS and diversifying are two different topics to talk about. Diversifying is most common and obvious thing that every business owner should adopt. Even big businesses diversify and expand into different niches once they have made their brand name. Because, businesses are dynamic and subjected to risks, pivoting or diversifying is given.
FOCUS, however, on the other hand, is very instrumental for succeeding in one business at a time. We can’t FOCUS on multiple businesses at the same time.
Got it 100% Naveen.
It’s not always about what we want to get, accomplish or become.
It’s important to think seriously about resource utilization.
It is impossible to have equal competence in 5 areas at a time. Chasing multiple goals or strategies at a time keeps our greatest potential under utilized. However it all depends on individual ambition, perspective and stage.
Great post Jon. Agree 100%. It was amazing watching the last Google “fred” update, and how absolutely crazy some people were. Basing their entire business on organic traffic from Google, and on 1 website no less.
Then one Google update destroys their entire business. Diversify people!
I agree with your model but I think there’s an argument that one can also diversify within a single business model. For example, if you have a successful e-commerce store, once you figure out at least 3 PPC channels, build a large customer list, and rank in SEO – you become as diversified as possible within a single framework. And once you reach a decent level of profitability you can start a few more e-commerce sites, safely assuming that e-commerce won’t end anytime soon. In the meantime, you can flip the site and cash out, thereby passing any risk of future channel failure to the new owner. (That said, I might be wrong since with e-commerce the single point of failure in this model could be the merchant account getting revoked if one isn’t selling on Amazon too.)
Excellent post Jon. I tend to agree as diversifying your business is just as important as it is in investing. Plus, it is a lot more fun.
I think the challenge is making you sure segment blocks of time to work on all projects timely and have superb automation and teams in place to help run the business. This is something you clearly do extraordinarily well. I don’t but am getting better with your help!
Lastly, I think people like all the big timers that teach singular focus also have diversified their business well. For instance, JLD sells physical products (books), his podcast and webinar courses, and makes a ton of money with sponsorships and affiliate marketing.