Business for Geeks 301: Focus

bubbelbal, photo by Ruud van LeeuwenNo matter what kind of organization you run, two of the most important things are getting and keeping a Focus. When I went digging for a good definition to share with you, I didn't find anything that fit exactly what I was trying to say… until I looked into the defintion from Wikipedia:

In geometrical optics, a focus, also called an image point, is the point where light rays originating from a point on the object converge.

For our purposes, if we replace "light rays" with "effort" then it fits nicely. A Focus in any new organization is the point where all of our time and effort should lead. Unfortunately, unlike light, an organization's focus can change quite easily.

When you're just starting off, it's easy to keep Focus. You know why you started, you know what motivates you, and you (hopefully) weren't expecting success immediately. Any success, attention, or opportunity that comes up will be more wind in your sails and motivation. Other than complete rejection, nothing can slow you down.

Once you've been at it a while, things shift. If you've had some success, additional opportunities appear. They're not an exact match with your Focus but they're closely related… so you do it. Even though you don't think anyone has noticed, your Focus has shifted slightly. People who weren't potential customers before now look like potential customers. These tiny shifts accumulate and before you know it, you reband yourself from "Apple Computer, Inc." to "Apple, Inc." If you've had failures, it can be even worse. If you're just fighting to make ends meet, you're going to make bad decisions, you're going to chase the dollars instead of your goals, and you're going to consider opportunities that don't remotely fit your goals.

In either case, you need to make a decision:

Do I change my focus or do I change my actions?

No matter what else happens, you need to choose one or the other. It doesn't work to try both… I've tried.

Now it's time to open the kimono…

CaseySoftware has lost its focus. In the past 2.5 since CaseySoftware became my fulltime job, I've gotten a number of minor modules out the door and a single product, but that's in. Instead, I focused on keeping the dollars flowing. I've been much more successful than planned in that area but it has led me to take on projects and opportunities that I simply couldn't be passionate about and with customers who… well, I won't go there. Regardless, that time is over.

As of now, CaseySoftware is refocusing on a trio of products. Each one is LAMP-based, utilizes a number of Open Source components, and in industries we've already been working in, so the local ecosystem and the content of this site is not going to change significantly. The important part is that of the three products, two of them have fully functional prototypes which have gone into full production (more by accident than anything).

So hang on… it's about to get exciting again.