“Just focus on this one thing.”
I heard this voice come to me as a revelation late one evening while seated in my home office. It had been a cloudless summer night, and morning was fast approaching.
At the time, I’d been working extra hours on top of my full-time job trying to crack the hardest code of them all: Which idea should I pursue for my budding business?
At that point, several years had passed since I tried to juggle multiple projects, thinking I was upping my chances at success. But instead of growing at hyperspeed as I envisioned, everything was grinding to a halt. However, on that particular evening, it all became crystal clear: Doing too many things at once was stunting my startup’s growth.
While changing directions to focus on one singular project wasn’t easy at the time, it was one of the most pivotal decisions I’ve made to date as an entrepreneur, because it led to the creation of my company.
You could say that having this kind of light-bulb moment is what ended up changing everything, but I’d disagree. To me, it’s not just about coming up with a way to fix a problem that’s important—it’s also about how we make our solution come to fruition. In other words, it’s just as significant to think about how to bring that big idea to life.
Since I chose to narrow my focus all those years ago, I’ve had several of these late-night epiphanies. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to turn these into true organizational change in your company.
Self-examine in the early days
First, before you go full steam ahead, you need to know where you’re going. According to Fast Company contributor Ethan Lipsitz, the mind of an entrepreneur can sometimes be an echo chamber, especially in those initial days of brainstorming. Still, the first step in transforming your idea involves a lot of self-questioning. Here are a few things to ask yourself:
- Who do you need to tap in to help put your ideas into action?
- What are the skills or resources you already possess that can help you execute your vision?
- At what speed do you need to go to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm your team?
Write these down and then envision the outcome. It’s okay if you’re feeling unequipped for the task in front of you. As Lipsitz notes, what’s important is that you don’t stay stuck. “Anytime you feel hung up, take a break. Stay focused on your challenge, but try to approach it from different angles. Above all, give yourself the time it takes to see them.”
Define a compelling vision
Having a light-bulb moment is one thing, but developing a compelling vision that inspires your team is what will keep them invested in making it a reality. It’s what will inspire them to have the patience to see it through to the end.
“In defining a shaping view,” John Hagel III and John Seely Brown write for Harvard Business Review, “it is important to make clear how the conditions you are trying to achieve will benefit many people beyond yourself.”
This speaks to my own experience as a leader. When we were working on our latest product, JotForm Tables, it was important for me to convey from the start that I wanted our focus to remain on quality versus speed.
We ended up spending three years developing this tool with that vision in mind. Why? Because, rather than adopting a “just ship it” mentality, my end goal since the beginning was to create an enduring company that delivers real value to our customers.
In the end, your set of values and gut instinct will help shape the vision you have for your idea to flourish—but this should come from a focus beyond yourself.
Work toward tangible results over abstract thoughts
As Lipsitz wisely writes, “For entrepreneurs especially, it’s easy to get lost in the thinking and forget about the doing.”
In other words, to effect true organizational change, at some point we have to move on from endless brainstorming and planning to taking real action. This could involve developing and putting out a prototype with the existing resources you have available, garnering feedback from trusted sources, and then digging into details. All of this will help create a sense of momentum.
So, remember to invest your time wisely and simplify your execution. These are just some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way since starting my business. Unless you take concrete steps toward implementing your late-night epiphany, it will just be another great idea swept away by endless distractions.
And while I will be the first to tell you to focus on the tangible, I am also the one to say this: Always listen to that small voice telling you where to direct your attention. You may be surprised how accurate it can be.
Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.