The Laser and the Spinning Top

April 18, 2009 – 5:49 pm | by Matt Ackerson

Kevin McGovern once said, focus is the laser to success. I believe that today and I have internalized that through hard work and many mistakes in the last few years. I realize now that in order for a start-up business to be successful a team must be relentlessly focused on doing one thing very well at any given time. Distractions must be labeled and turned down. I cannot say the same is true for larger corporate firms (after all, there is much more talent and capital available in that circumstance).

The Scrimple team was always most effective when labor and resources were focused on tackling one big task at a time. For instance, this past summer when we shifted our business from doing printable coupons online to a local discount card model. We did this in a matter of about one month. We signed over all our clients, built and launched a new website, placed orders with suppliers, and signed a contract with a local distribution partner for $2,000 immediately turning a profit.

In the past, my mistakes as the company’s leader lie in the fact that I acted less like a laser and more like a spinning top. To be a “spinning top” means to work sporadically and to re-appropriate one’s energy too often toward different projects or tasks that are not interdependent. Thus, less is accomplished than otherwise would be. For example, at the start of last summer we had a particular vision for our company and a specific path that we were headed down in order to realize it. It involved making our coupon website more scalable and viral. However we began to drift a little as we investigated other ideas, such as our coupons on a credit card concept and also with two supplementary website develop jobs for local businesses. We also spent time trying to raise capital, which was not necessary either.

Looking back on it now, those two side jobs actually provided unnecessary income for the company compared to where that effort could have been allocated. Also, we should not have been looking too intensely into the credit card idea and instead realized that we did not have the bandwidth at that moment to fully implement it. Rather we should have been focused on scaling the website by building on top of what we already had.

Success requires many mistakes, however repeating the same mistake must be avoided. Now that I have made this mistake I will strive to never again repeat it. Learn from my mistake; understand the difference been the laser and the spinning top.

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