Focus, Focus, Focus or Zig Zag

Focus, focus, focus is a phrase I have repeated often over the years to help business people and entrepreneurs define their business strategy.  Peter Drucker coined the phrase more than fifty years ago and I still think it makes a lot of sense.  The ZigZag Principle is put forward by Rick Christiansen as an approach to starting up and growing a business successfully.  It was the sharp contrast between these two concepts that intrigued me enough to read Rick’s book.

The book is intended as a working process and workbook to help you achieve a successful business.  I found it fairly complete and some of the ideas are presented in a very effective manner.  Anyone who uses this book to guide them in their business decision-making will not go far wrong.

Before zigging and zagging, you should be figuring out what is this business you intend to grow and check that it will achieve the goals that you have set yourself at this time of your life.  The book gives some useful checklists and tables to help in doing this.  Once this is established, then it’s time to zig and zag.

The three main zigs or zags that Christiansen presents are the following:

  • A first zig of getting to profitability is important to every business, because being broke and always fighting for funding can cause a lot of pain. More importantly, profitability can drive you to find hidden assets, zag to interim revenue sources, and force you to pace yourself in getting to that final destination. You must know you can survive and get the new business on its feet financially without resorting to injections of capital from others.
  • The second zag is then to define processes and add resources. It is now time to formalize and document the processes that have worked up to this point. Only then can you expand those things that led to your initial success. It also means that it’s time to stop micro-managing, hire some of the right people, and start giving up some control.
  • Once you have your team of right people, the third zig is then to Scale or expand the business. This is implementing a model that you can replicate many times over, to get your product or service out across the country, and around the world. Scaling models charge by the transaction, or subscriptions, or have digital assets with no cost to reproduce. Switch to a mindset of working “on” your business, rather than “in” your business.

There are several other evocative ways of describing important considerations in the book.  Beacon in the fog was one (where your dream will take you) and staying within the guardrails was another (knowing the boundaries on what you will accept).  These are not new concepts but it was good to see them discussed at some length in this approach.

This is a fairly slim book and an easy read and on the whole I would recommend it to business readers, not least because it is provocative.  However at the end of the day I am not convinced that zigging and zagging is the most effective way of describing how to grow your business.  I think the steps that Christiansen described are fundamental and should be followed.  However they are taking you in the same direction and calling them zigs and zags I believe is potentially confusing.  The book might have been instead called Ready, Aim, Fire for the three main zigs/zags.  It then would have better represented how I believe businesses should grow while keeping in mind that essential Peter Drucker Focus.

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