The power of one
Mona Ataya, the founder and CEO of mumzworld.com, set aside a few hours every day to work on identifying and resolving each element of what stands in between the state of the startup right now and the goal to be achieved.
Dubai - Focusing on one thing at a time is the process of getting to your goal
A couple of days ago, a key figure in the UAE startup scene reiterated the need for total focus. He simply asked, "Can you tell me what your business is in three words? As if your life depended on it."
Why is it important to be super clear about your business? Usually, by the time a startup is noticed, there have been three to four years of relentless hard work behind it. Sometimes, entrepreneurs are lucky and hit on a viable model almost as soon as their journey begins. For others, it may takes months or even years. Without focus, this would be impossible. I have met entrepreneurs in the UAE who have had extraordinary determination - one got back to work almost the day after she delivered her baby. Another discovered midway through execution that his service provider was actually competing with him. He just started over from scratch.
In an interview with the Khaleej Times in September 2013, Mona Ataya, the founder and CEO of mumzworld.com, was described as "working 18 hours a day, seven days a week, with three boys under 10, two of whom are twins."
Focusing on one thing at a time is not about the "big idea" but the process of getting to your goal. Set aside a few hours everyday to work on identifying and resolving each element of what stands in between the state of the startup right now and the goal to be achieved.
Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter and Square said: "I love taking everything away, taking all the debris, the conceptual debris from a technology away so that you can just focus on what's most important."
Explaining the value of single mindedness, Gary Keller, co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty, a large successful business in North America has co-written a book with Jay Papasan. The book is titled "The One Thing". The book calls out the lie of multitasking, clearly explaining why it's not possible. The advice is to spend a focused time of at least four hours a day on the task at hand.
Tahir Shah, the founder of Moti Roti, the UAE-based online delivery and pop-up business dealing in Pakistani healthy fast/ casual food, had this to say about focus - "You've got to have that drive, and steely continence inside you, or you just cannot run your business. You need to be made of sterner stuff when the real world is battering you every day. It's easy to give up. Personality and that inner philosophy plays a big part."
Shah's comments are especially relevant for tech startups. He's a technopreneur who worked for over a decade in technology with a mobile giant.
Quoting from Robin Sharma's blog on productivity - "Stop multitasking. New research confirms that all the distractions invading our lives are rewiring the way our brains work (and drop our IQ by 5 points!). Be one of the rare-air few who develops the mental and physical discipline to have a mono-maniacal focus on one thing for many hours. (It's all about practice)."
The common theme streaming through discussions as well as the articles in this newspaper on startup failures and successes is the need for conviction and focus. Many startups suffered because they took on money from investors that had no expertise in technology and related business models. The investors ended up distracting them. Others let go of the maniacal focus after the first round of funding and listened to the "real-world wisdom" of their investors.
Clearly tech startups are in a world of their own. The ecosystem of experienced tech startup investors is in the early stages in the UAE. E-commerce is still nascent. Digital disruption is happening fast but it's still ramping up. Technopreneurs in the UAE would do well to note Jack Dorsey's and Tahir Shah's deep insights.
So back to the question that I was asked - three words as if my life depended on it. My immediate reaction was to dismiss the advice as yet another cliche. I did not need to be taught to do business. But the humbling moment came soon after. I did need to be taught how to do my own business. Not run somebody else's.
The writer is director at Vyashara and a digital banking and digital payments evangelist, practitioner, advisor and consultant. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
Book review: The ONE Thing - Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
The authors guide the reader through their view of the myth of multitasking. Also, they recommend a focus on the process rather than the result. By focusing on the now, the much bigger goals can be achieved through a process of building up. The advice is intuitive but much needed to fight mediocre results from taking on too much.