Breaking Free of Shiny-Object Syndrome

If there’s one common malady that most business owners and entrepreneurs fall prey to it would probably be “shiny-object syndrome.” It affects virtually all of us. Why? Because of how we’re wired.

Normal people don’t start businesses, crazy people do. People like you and me who are curious, driven, resourceful, risk-takers who believe that an idea can be transformed into reality—a solution that can solve a problem and produce a positive economic exchange for both parties.

In essence, we’re opportunists. We see an opportunity to make a difference (and make a dollar or two in the process) and somehow believe, against all odds, that we’re the ones who can make it happen.

Which means that we’re also a pretty confident bunch. We believe that we can do whatever we set our minds to. And because we’re usually good at a lot of things, we tend to believe we can handle more than we actually can.

So, what happens when you take someone like us and place a new opportunity in front of them? Exactly. You get shiny object syndrome. In other words, if you ever wonder why you’re so gullible for shiny-object syndrome or why you tend to find your mind diverted all day long or why you start so many things that you can’t actually complete, it’s no wonder. It’s how you’re wired.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the primary hindrances to your success. And moreover, both you and your company are paying a steep price for it. Why? Because one of the bedrock keys to success is concentrated focus (not diverted attention) over long periods of time.

So, how can you break free from this negative malady known as shiny-object syndrome? Well, here are a few ideas for you today.

I. Own That This is Actually a Problem

The first step to recovery in virtually anything is to first own that you have a problem. Unfortunately, many of us don’t believe this is a problem (remember that unshakeable confidence that we discussed earlier). We tend to think we can do more than we can—which is usually caused by a lack of self-acuity and an unawareness of how our behaviors affect others.

As optimists, we tend to remember more of the positives, than the negatives. For example, we’ll remember the ONE time when we were balancing ten projects and successfully grew by 25% but we won’t remember ALL of the other times when we continually felt overwhelmed and didn’t get that much done (and grew by 1-3%).

Or we won’t pay attention to how frustrated our employees are when we keep moving the ball all the time. For example, one of the common fears amongst all employees is a leader going to a conference. Why? Because they know that when he/she comes back they’ll have shiny-object syndrome and want to go in another direction … until the next conference … when they’ll want to go in another direction, etc.

Note: I’ve done enough employee surveys to know this is true.

But beyond all of that, lack of focus is a growth killer. No one can move 50 things down the field at the same time. And who’s the one trying to move 50 things down the field at one time? Exactly. You.

So, own it. The lack of concentrated focus over a long period of time in your business derives itself from you. Until you own that, nothing will change.

II. Relentlessly Embrace Focus As Your Modus Operandi

Focus is a way of life. It’s not something that you occasionally do. It’s a ruthless way of living whereby you intentionally say “No” to a lot of things in order that you can say, “Yes” to a few things.

Several years ago, Jim Collins wrote a famous article about the importance of creating a “Not To Do” list. It immediately caught on. Why? Because he was right. Success is far more about editing out than adding in—the exact opposite of the natural bent for those of us who call ourselves entrepreneurs.

Which is why I used the phrase, “relentlessly embrace,“ because this is going to be a fight. However, it has to become your modus operandi, your primary way of operating, especially as you begin to scale.

Why? Because the natural tendency for most business owners and entrepreneurs whenever they’re trying to scale up is to add more. To add more to what you’re doing. To add more products. To add more markets. To add more services. Etc. But that tendency to keep adding more will kill you and your business far faster than staying focused ever will.

As you have more people and more money, more opportunities will pop up on your screen. And you’ll find it easy to say, “Yes,” to more and more of them because it’s in your nature.

But you must fight this. I’ve watched this happen time and time again, in both small and large businesses. Whenever a leader (or a business) allows their attention to be diverted by other opportunities (which, in and of themselves, are probably good opportunities), the business suffers. They were growing, then they weren’t (or they were growing at a nice pace, let’s say 25% or more per year and now they’re growing by 5%).

There is a time and place to add. But if you really want to grow, focus has to become your default. Editing has to become a way of life. Your “Not To Do” list has to become larger than your “To Do” list.

III. Focus Down To A Few Big Projects

In my BizScalers Club, we focus everything down to three to five big projects every 90 days. That’s it. And those three to five projects should be in alignment with your annual plan (which should have only 3-5 growth accelerators and 3-5 constraint eliminators).

And every week, using our weekly planner, we write out those three to five projects and the next few steps for that week to turn each key project into reality. Everything in alignment. Focused in on just a few big projects. Why? Because that’s how success happens.

As I wrote above, no one can move 50 things down the field at once. So, how are you doing?

What are the three to five big projects that you need to be focused on this quarter?

Do you need to focus on

  • Developing a systematic lead generation marketing machine?
  • Enhancing your relentless sales system?
  • Building a new employee or customer onboarding system?
  • Overseeing a new software build?
  • Hiring a new sales person and onboarding them well?
  • Systematizing some of the work you’re currently doing so you can delegate that work to someone else?
  • Creating a new launch campaign for a new product/service?
  • Developing a better business model?
  • Or something else?

Whatever it is, don’t write up a list of 10 to 25 or even 40 items. Write up a list of three to five and stay focused on them until they’re executed properly.

IV. Focus on One Primary Conversion Strategy

Another frequent problem of shiny object syndrome is the addiction to adding more and more marketing channels and platforms. You watch a webinar on LinkedIn and say to the team, “We need to create a Linkedin system.” Next week, you run into another business owner who’s killing it on Instagram and say to your team, “We need to create an Instagram system.” The following week you’re reading a book and the author grew her business on direct mail so you say to your team, “We need a direct mail campaign.”

The following week, you watch another webinar on automated funnels and you say to your team, “We need to create a series of automated funnels.” Later that week you’re talking with a friend who’s built his entire business with webinars so you say to your team, ‘We need a webinar system.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

You know the drill because you’ve lived it. We want it all. Free, paid, and partnerships. We want to be on every platform and using every available means possible to get customers/clients/member/patients. Why? Because we foolishly believe that more is better. That if we simply had more hooks out there, we’d catch more customers/clients/members/patients.

However, the opposite is usually true. There are plenty of businesses out there that have built entire multi-million dollar empires on just one or two primary marketing channels connected to a conversion process. The key is that they got really good at using that one marketing channel and turning that into a cash conversion system for them and their business instead of doing twenty different channels and platforms poorly.

So, if you were to pick one or two marketing channels and work those channels relentlessly so that your business could master that channel (or those few channels) what would your primary channel(s) be?

Note: a simple example of this would be mastering Facebook ads leading to a webinar to a sales page to a customer. Until that’s crushing it, you don’t need to be adding other options or platforms.

V. Focus on Going Deep With Your Current Customers

The final area of focus for today is overcoming another natural tendency for most business owners and entrepreneurs, which is the tendency to focus more on acquiring new customers than on going deep with current customers. No matter what metric you’re using, it’s always cheaper to sell to a current customer since there’s no cost of customer acquisition.

So, why do we keep messing this up? Because it sounds sexier to go after new customers. It sounds cooler in our minds to be able to say, “We added 100 new customers this month!” that to say, “We increased the average transactional value of our customer base by 30% this month.”

But buyers are buyers. And the longer someone is with you, the higher the probability that a good percentage of them will buy more and more from you.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong with going after new customers, but the fastest path to cash is almost always with your current customer base who already know, like and trust you. Going deeper with them will happen faster and at higher price points than it ever will with newbies.

So, focus on what generates cash. What else can you sell your current customers?

  • Can you sell them more of what they’re currently buying?
  • Can you find an add on to what you’re currently selling?
  • Can you sell a higher value product than what they’re currently buying?
  • Can you sell them on a subscription model? Or a subscription to maintain or service what they bought?
  • Can you offer them an adjacent product to what they’ve already bought? Etc.

Keep playing with this question because so many business owners and entrepreneurs get this one wrong. Acquiring new customers is critical but focusing on going deeper with those whom you already have as customers should be your first priority, not something you’ll get to “some day.”

Well, there you have it. Five keys to breaking free of shiny object syndrome.

  1. Own that this is actually a problem
  2. Relentlessly embrace focus as your modus operandi
  3. Focus down to a few big projects
  4. Focus on one primary conversion process
  5. Focus on going deep with your current customers

If you follow these five keys, you’ll find that your business grows faster, generates more revenue, makes more impact and allows you to experience more freedom.

To your accelerated success!


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