When to Obsess and When to Not

When to Obsess and When to Not

“If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.” – Jeff Bezos

Most entrepreneurs (and all the successful ones) are intensely interested in whatever it is that their business does. Whether it is retailing or wholesaling, manufacturing or servicing, they care about what they do and how they do it. In fact, they are fairly well certain that how they do what they do is their key advantage in the marketplace.

healthy business obsession
photo credit: Jez Page via photopin cc

That level of obsession can make the difference between success and failure. But obsession has its limits. The adage, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” might seem particularly applicable. However that isn’t exactly how the real world works.

Sometimes Good Enough is Good Enough

There is a big difference between cleaning the table for rough carpentry, cleaning the table for food preparation, and cleaning the table for brain surgery. For one, sawdust, nails and tools are a problem. For another, raw meat, unrefrigerated dairy and insects are a problem. For the other, bacteria, pathogens and microbes are a problem.

It is all about scales and degrees. You have to be aware of what scale you are working on. Time, place, personnel, tools, ingredients all have a lesser or greater role according to the context.

As it has been said, the devil is in the details.

Details That Matter

What is the essence of what you do? What is it that must be done in-house, it can’t be outsourced or bought off someone else’s shelf? This is where the details count.

This is the zone where being purer, faster, straighter, bigger, smaller or any other other measure that truly counts matters. This is where you should be a fanatical, imbalanced obsessor. Everything else is just window dressing. Put your time, your money, your energy and your focus into the differentiators in your business so that you can claim a place peculiarly your own.

Don’t waste one iota of your finite resources on anything else.

Details That Don’t Matter

Just because a certain something might matter at some other company does not mean it ought to matter at yours. McDonald’s Corp. stores the potatoes that will become its french fries in rooms with air chemically matched to mimic a sea breeze. It matters for them. I don’t care what kind of restaurant you run, it doesn’t matter for you.

Don’t waste your resources on details where you can’t make sense of the rationale for a certain standard, no matter how popular the advice about it is. One of my personal pet peeves is about the obsession with URLs. Let me state it bluntly:

URLs. Do. Not. Matter.

I can prove it. In the comments below, tell me one time, just once when you purchased something because of the URL. Tell us all about that time when the URL itself was so compelling that you pulled out your credit card and shelled out your hard earned money. I don’t care if it was www.unlimited-ten-dollar-bills-for-a-nickel.com, it has never happened.

Do you regularly visit Yahoo.com, Google.com, or Amazon.com? What do those names even mean? Yes, I’m sure there are a few etymologically obsessed individuals out there that know. But no one is staying away because they don’t know. No one is staying away because they do know either. All because URLs don’t matter.

What it comes down to is this is not a detail, it is a triviality. Trivialities are a pox on business and especially on new and small businesses.

For entrepreneurs, especially new ones, the margin for error is too narrow to squander resources on things and procedures just because “everybody says you should”. Find out why “everybody says”. That context is a critical factor when it comes to making decisions. Some of us can go on experience. But if you don’t yet have that experience, you have to dig down to the “why”.

Fidelity to Your Dream is Greater than Obsession

You got into your business because something about it mattered to you. It might have been you felt you could do it better than you saw it was being done. It could have been that you discovered something new and exciting that didn’t already exist. It is possible you have a grand vision of how things could be. That essential thing will keep your business alive if you give it nothing less than loving attention. But it is a jealous lover. If you cast your attentions elsewhere, it will notice and it will make you suffer.

Obsession is a strong word, maybe even a loaded word. So let’s think of it more as fidelity. It’s about being true to why your business even exists. It is about being true to your standards and to your commitments. If you do that, people won’t think you are obsessed — they will believe that you are one of the greats of that thing that you do.

About the Author: You know how many small business owners have lots of ambitions but can’t seem to get clear enough to make them real? Kenneth Vogt teaches them how to transform their ambitions into a big mission and then into reality at VeraClaritas.com.

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This article is one of the excellent contributions from small business owners, decision makers and professionals.