Reconciling Vision and Focus

Which is more important for your startup–a big vision or a specific focus?

Lately I’ve been hearing about this dilemma from several companies I work with through Techstars. These companies have mentors or advisors telling them they need a big, bold vision to draw others to the company, attract investors and be viewed as thought leaders.

At the same time, they are also being told they need to focus–they need to do something very specific and really build up a dominant market share with good revenue in a specific area.

Many view this as conflicting advice. It causes them to thrash about, between big vision and specific focus. In reality, it’s not conflicting at all.

Having a long term vision and having focus early on are completely compatible ideas. The key here is that your focus should show how you’re executing along the path to fulfilling your vision. Recognize that over the long term, your company has a trajectory with a start point and a theoretical envisioned endpoint where you change the world. Focus on one concrete step that lies on the path of that long term vision. You need both your vision and a focus that is in line with that vision.

When I was at the Disney Accelerator recently, this vision vs. focus topic was coming up a lot. It so happens that one of the participating companies is a great example of focus that demonstrates progress toward the overall vision. The vision for this company is helping parents and kids connect and communicate. They’re doing that right now, but they’re doing it in one very specific area–chores–with a suite of web and mobile apps called ChoreMonster.

Of course chores are only one way that kids and parents will communicate. But what if you think of chores as one interaction along the path of helping kids and parents interact? By focusing on chores, the company is making progress while still maintaining their overall vision.

Vision or focus? There’s no need to choose one or the other. Instead, choose both–talk about your vision while making progress with your focus. Just like with your eyesight, vision is of no use without focus.

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