There are many self-help and business related books on the topic of focus. When you have an exam to study for, how do you know what topics or problems to focus on? When you have 100 items on your to-do list on a Saturday, what items do you do first? When you have a busy week at work, what tasks do you do first second third etc.? How does one decide what to focus on? I have learned some lessons since starting my business in 2016 about focus and actually this blog was birthed out of an important lesson about focus that I am still learning.
When I started The Westmoreland Group in 2016 I set out with a vision to start a company that would provide the government with first-rate service and also build a company with a family friendly and giving environment. I had BIG ideas and BIG dreams. That is an excellent place to start but where do you go from there? What are the next steps? I started with what I will call ‘The Trees’:
1. Business Cards (I have cycled through 3 different designs of business cards since starting in 2016)
2. Website (I have a basic website that uses a drag and drop type template that I spent hours changing and re-arranging over and over and over again)
3. Polo Shirts (yes I have polo shirts and I wear them on casual Fridays at my client’s office to help put my name out there)
4. Marketing Folder (I have a home-made but professional-looking version that includes my business card and a one page data sheet about my company – there are websites that will pop these out as well)
5. Employee Handbook (I spent countless hours creating an Employee Handbook while I don’t have any employees yet – there are websites that will pop one out for me in like 7 minutes)
6. Workshops (Every single day and even some weekends there are workshops in the DMV relating to government contracting and how to capture business with the government…..think 20 extra e-mails per day)
7. Webinars (Every single day there are multiple webinars online which are helpful but how much time can or should I spend listening to webinars????……think death by webinar)
8. Networking (Hey – you need to meet this person? Hey – I am going to connect you with this person? Hey – do you know such and such? Hey – do you need me to build you a website? Hey – do you need me to build you an app? Hey – do you need me to sell you all these services now that you won’t really need until you get employees?)
Here are things I will call ‘The Mountains’:
1. Contract Capture Process (Today – August 16, 2019 I am still learning about this process)
2. Accounting (This is all about money, taxes (respect the IRS and follow all their rules), benefits, payroll, and keeping all those things compliant for the government agencies I am trying to do business with)
3. Facility Clearance (This is what I need to prime a business contract in my current arena and I am in the process of being sponsored for it)
4. Mentoring (This is where this blog was birthed so that I can share the wisdom and mistakes I am gaining/making along the way)
5. Legal (I have an attorney on hand and have had several conversations about services I may need in the future with a reputable law firm that specializes in Government Contracting)
6. Banker (I have a trusted Bank and keep regular tabs on my Business Checking Accounts)
There are even some smaller trees that I did not include in this list such as selecting a logo, writing a mission statement, selecting a company name, company colors, etc. The point is that The Tress DO NOT NEED my attention daily, weekly or even monthly. Some of them are one and done, but I’m human so sometimes I get caught-up. I can spend hours online looking at polo shirts; trying to decide which ones will flatter my body the best (YES! I am an all-american girl). Who cares? Nobody does and I know that, but sometimes I still get caught up. When I started in 2016 I wanted to go to every workshop I got an e-mail invitation too and listen to every webinar that was sent to me by e-mail, I even dragged my former roommate (who is also a former CEO of her own government contracting company – Better Solutions) to a few of these workshops.
The key I am learning is how much time to spend focusing on ‘The Trees’ versus ‘The Mountains’.
The Mountains will move the needle into the future and also ensure that I have a sustainable growth plan for my company. The Mountain that I am focused most on these days is the Contract Capture Process which will make or break a winning proposal for a government contract. Items 2-6 on The Mountains list are important but I don’t need to have them on my to-do list daily. Although I have learned many lessons since 2016; writing this blog helps me to be self-reflective which is a key to success in my opinion – so I try to touch it a few times a week (some seasons I do better than others). I recently heard a podcast that said no matter how many to-do lists we write, or how many books we read, or apps we use or tricks we come up with to help with time management, we essentially will do what is most important – period. I have an excellent pair of mentors within ADS Federal and between the 2 of them I am navigating how to balance between ‘The Mountains’ and ‘The Trees’. Sifting is a daily exercise of mine – sifting through e-mails and my schedule to decide what is important for me to focus on, determining what I can put in a sub-folder and focus on at another time and figuring out how to keep the main thing the main thing.