“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do” Steve Jobs
One of the major strategic shifts that Steve Jobs made upon returning to the failing Apple in 1997 was to sharpen the focus on the company on creating just a few products… but pouring all of their energy into making those products fantastic. That’s why even today Apple, arguably the number 1 computer company in the world, only has 46 products. Only 13 of those are in their core hardware business (the rest are software or accessory products -I found that tidbit here). Spend a few minutes browsing the Dell website and you can see how remarkable this is.
Isaacson, in the article that spurred this Blog series, describes an annual strategy meeting Jobs would hold with his ‘top 100’ people. He would ask them to brainstorm what 10 things they should be doing… slowly narrowing all the ideas down until he got to 10. He’d prioritize them… and then drop the bottom 7. This narrowing of priorities down to 2 or 3 is a strategy theme that seems to be everywhere once you look for it. Perhaps the most well known of these ‘no more than 3 priorities’ advocates is Jim Collins, of ‘Good to Great’ fame.
“Create a ‘stop doing’ list. Work is infinite; time is finite. If you have more than three priorities, you have none …” – Jim Collins
The principle of playing to our strengths and figuring out what one or two things your firm can be excellent at has been an ongoing theme in our Executive Program in Private Practice Management. Part of focusing on your strengths is to accept that it is acceptable – perhaps even preferable to be mediocre or even suck at alot of things if you are going to be world-class at anything. I, for example, am steadily losing my skill at manual therapy. For the first decade of my career, it was all I thought about. I obsessed about it, studied it, practiced it… I practically manipulated anyone who I could get to lie down on my portable manipulation table. I did my best to put in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours. Now I’m focusing on other things – such as learning to write better blog posts. If I want to become a master at THIS, then I can’t spend a big chunk of my time practicing THAT.
“My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.” — Bill Gates
Our practices, similarly, can’t be amazing at everything. We probably can’t be the best place for an endurance athlete to be seen and also the best place to go if you have a stroke. We probably can’t be the women’s health mecca and also the very best at treating cervicogenic headaches. We could certainly collect some people who have these skill sets – but we as a practice can’t be the best at everything and as the number of therapists gets larger, Cindy’s special skill set in treating elbow pain becomes more and more difficult to use as a differentiation.
“A person who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.” – Anonymous
The lesson the rest of the business world is trying to get across (and that was executed on by Steve Jobs) is that it is better to figure out what you are the BEST at and then use that to differentiate your practice from the others. Everything else is a distraction and could prevent you from achieving the amazing practice you envision.
Coming up next week…. Simplify.