Stay Focused And Keep Shipping: 4 Ways To Build A Strong Foundation

It's easy for small-business owners to feel overwhelmed. Follow one owner's 4-step process for staying focused and passionate about his business.
October 28, 2013

This week I went to visit the headquarters of a global startup based in Silicon Valley. Just beyond the all-you-can-eat frozen yogurt parlor, and alongside the baskets of free energy bars, a series of inspiration posters reminded employees to keep working away. “Ship or ship not … there is no try,” read one poster. “Stay focused and keep shipping,” read another.

Some of the employees I talked to were focused on the perks of working at the trendy company (“There's a vending machine with free phone cables!” … “There are free falafel chips just waiting to be eaten!”), but others seemed focused on the work itself. “I like building things,” one employee told me. “I want to work in an environment that supports that belief.”

The whole time I was on site—it was Facebook, if you're curious—I kept thinking about my work as a small-business owner: “Am I this motivated for the projects I work on?” I wondered. “Am I excited about helping the people who entrust me with their business and attention?”

With the potential for unlimited revisions and always another task to be done, you can only build something meaningful in your business if you remain focused on what matters. But how do you stay focused when so many things are pulling you in a million directions?

Design for outcomes. At least a few times a year, take a step back to consider the big picture of what you'd like your business to look like. Your daily work is practical and logistical, but when you take the 10,000 foot view, you gain a bigger perspective. Be sure that the work you plan on a weekly basis relates to your overall goals, and be specific about how you'll complete it.

Get it done! Originally conceived as a hacker's mantra, you can apply the concept of “shipping” to the work you do that builds your business. Remove the obstacles that stand in the way of shipping. If something is holding you up, ignore it—or ship anyway and fix it later.

Love the process. Even as you build toward deliverables and focus on shipping, take joy in the process. Every step can be a building block—another blog post, another sales call, another product iteration. When you complete one step, you move on to the next

Make adjustments. As your business grows, things change. Remember the old adage attributed to Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.” Don't be afraid to make adjustments and change things up!

I enjoyed my visit to the big startup, and the free lunch was a nice perk. It was good to see how a large company can develop and nurture its employees. For me, though, I was excited to get back to the small business I was building. I had people to serve! I had work to complete! I liked the idea of staying focused on shipping. I just had to do it for myself, even if I had to buy my own frozen yogurt.

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Photo: Getty Images