You’ve probably heard the term “big data.” It’s a buzzword that refers to the huge amount of data that is available thanks to modern technology. According to IBM, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data daily. Some 90 percent of the world's data has been generated in the past few years. Some of this data is brief, such as a post to Twitter, and some of it is lengthy, like a complex scientific study. For many of us, it’s a mixed blessing: The Internet is an unlimited source of information, much of it very useful, especially for someone just starting a business. On the other hand, if we don’t manage it properly, we risk being weighed down by information overload.
Have a Plan, Stay the Course
So what’s the solution? It starts with having a clear strategic goal for your business. That goal, whether it’s to do $1 million in revenue, bring in 50 new customers or to launch two new products, determines how you should spend your time, both mentally and physically. The goal becomes your filter. As a business owner, you have multiple responsibilities, but you have to recognize your limitations, both to get things done and to process information. Every business decision you make, every article you read, every piece of advice you follow, should move you further along the path to achieving that goal. The challenge of our modern, data-packed world is that the needle you are searching for is now in a much bigger haystack.
The key to success is to focus on simplicity. Once you have a strategy and a plan on how to achieve your goal (that means having it in writing), you must stay focused through the execution phase. The problem is, too many people complicate the execution: They get distracted by the latest fad or technology and veer off course. In his book One Up Wall Street, legendary investor Peter Lynch coined the term “di-worsification,” referring to companies that diversify their investments too widely and drag down their overall returns. I think the same concept applies to the operational aspects of a business: What starts as a straightforward plan to get you from A to B can get completely off course if you get distracted by C, D and E. Concentrate your efforts and your energy on the execution of your plan.
The Technology Trap
One of the biggest traps I see people fall into relates to technology. Everyone wants the latest-and-greatest tools for their businesses, but it becomes a vicious, almost impossible cycle to maintain. Every day there are thousands of new apps that promise to help you work more efficiently, and new software that can help you save money or streamline your customer communications. But do you need them to achieve your goals? Maybe what you need is to focus on increasing the utilization of your existing technology. Chances are, you are only using a fraction of its capabilities. Remember, just because a product or idea is new to you, it doesn’t mean it’s better than what you already have or already are doing.
Take a deep breath. Create a concrete plan and focus on execution. Eliminate waste. Simplify. Aim to work leaner, smarter, faster and stronger.
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This article was originally published on August 25, 2014.