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“One Thing” Every Entrepreneur Absolutely Must Do

In the movie City Slickers the trail boss “Curly”, played by Jack Palance, was a trail-hardened cowboy with some advise for his “city slicker” guests, “all you have to know is that one thing.” Curley’s advice is sound counsel for the adventuresome executive looking to take their company to the next level.

Deep in the heart of every entrepreneur is that “one thing”, a value, competency or vision, which originally propelled him or her into business. Thrust into the heat of the battle the business owner finds himself working in the business with all the excitement a new venture brings, and all of the challenges. Slowly but surely the “one thing” that excited him or her about going to business in the first place begins to fade and the key to the original success of the business is buried under everyday pressures.

It is tempting to put this scenario into a box and label it “for new businesses only.” But with more that sixteen startups under my belt, and after reviewing the systems and processes in hundreds of small, medium and large companies over the past twenty-five years I can assure you that is not the case. It is actually the standard more than the exception.

Why is this “One Thing” so important?

The reason is simple to state, yet complex to implement. Your original passion, the idea, the talent or system of values which propelled you into business in the first place is what makes your company different, it is the “one thing” that made you stand out from the competition. It’s the “one thing” that sparked the business into existence in the first place.

When the original passion begins to fade into the mire of everyday business pressures, the business looses its appeal in the marketplace and begins to loose the branding which originally stoked growth. The most successful companies in the world are great because they have developed that “one thing” into part of the company vision, or as some might prefer to call it, a brand, which every member of the organization knows and deals with daily. It becomes the battle cry of every sales person in the organization; it is what motivates everything the business does, (think “When it Absolutely, Positively Has to Get There”.)

Development of the “One Thing” for Business Growth and Success

Benjamin Franklin said “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.” It is equally difficult, and vital, to put forth just what this “one thing” is in a business. A business must develop a precise knowledge and understanding of its unique passion and purpose and then integrate it into its marketing, sales, systems and processes, and corporate image if it is to break through the natural growth barriers of commerce. This “one thing” is often called a brand, a simple statement that captures the essence of your companies vision, core competencies and values.

Is your executive staff buried in a mire of management tasks trying to make things work right instead of working on the right things? Is your company loosing its identity in the crowd of competition? Does everyone in the company seem to have their own agenda? If so, your company may be operating in a vacuum created by the lack of a well-defined brand, the “one thing” the business was created to accomplish in the first place.

Three Deadly Vices

Three deadly vices visit those who loose focus on the “one thing” that brought them to the dance in the first place. 1) The entrepreneur turns into a managing technician; 2) The company gets lost in a crowd of competition; 3) The company turns into a political zoo where everyone is pushing an agenda, which is fine if it is the right agenda, but who’s agenda is right?

Entrepreneur Turn into Managing Technicians

Entrepreneurs must move out of the role of manager and back into the role of leader. Peter Druker, the father of modern business management said “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” If leaders and managers are not absolutely convinced they are working on the right things, they tend to flounder, spending funds and energies heading in a direction that may or may not be in the company’s best interest. Without that “one thing” to guide them, how confident can they or anyone in the direction of the company, and in their own futures. The result is, leaders become managers, always trying to get others to do it right. Not enough attention is given to doing the right things, and soon perspective and focus give way to an operating vacuum in which everyone is a manager and no one is leading.

They Get Lost in a Crowd of Competition

Recently I picked up a vision statement from a website on leadership which partially reads “We aspire to become a leading worldwide player where customers love our products and service, and that these are provided at consistently good quality and a fair price”. Sound familiar? It should, it reads like almost every other vision statement posted in the lobby of manufacturing, service and distribution companies around the country. This is not a vision; it is a statement of conformity, a statement that tells the reader, by omission, “we cannot figure out why we are different, or how we will prosper into an industry leader, so we decided to be like everyone else.”

No one wants to get lost in a crowd of competition. Every business leader I have ever known or consulted with is better than that. They are not crowd followers but self-made men, out to change the world with a better idea. But why are so many vision statements uninspiring? The reason is that leaders loose site of where they came from, what inspired the company to excel in their marketplace.

Take a look at GE’s mission statement 'We bring good things to life'. When an executive makes a decision at GE, he must first ask himself, is this decision going to bring good things to the lives of our customers, our employees, and our shareholders. Every manager knows he only has to ask if the decisions he or she is making bring good things to someone’s life. Is the job the shipping clerk doing helping to bring good things to someone’s life? If not, they are out of the scope of the company’s vision. GE knows what they are all about, they know what fuels their growth and what has the power to motivate their people and grow their businesses and they do not get lost in the crowd but instead have become one of the powerhouses of industry, with six carefully crafted words.

Without that “One Thing” to Guide them, Everyone Develops Their Own Agenda

When leadership fails to identify the right things to do, (energized by that “one thing”) it creates a vacuum in which everyone is free to develop their own version of what the right thing is. Their agenda may or may not be within the scope of what the company’s focus should be, but who is to know if the entire company is operating in a vacuum of leadership. Many independent operating units begin to form, all with the agenda of the most powerful manager as their battle cry.


Is that “one thing” well defined in your organization? Are your leaders identifying the right things to do? Is your competitive advantage coming across to your customers, employees and shareholders? Does your organization move together with unity of purpose? These are piercing questions which all imply the solution.

If you believe you have not properly identified your organizations vision, ask yourself these three questions.

1) What is that one thing that the founders of the company were passionate about which propelled them into business? Understanding that passion is the key to developing a business energizing vision. 2) What do we want our company to become? 3) What did the founders value about what they were doing?

The answers to these questions will help you find out the answer to the all-important question; what is that one thing that drives us? Once this understanding is developed it absolutely must become a part of everyone’s routine at every level of business. Customer support, shipping, sales, production, marketing, human resources, and management must all develop a keen awareness of this “one thing.” It must drive decisions at every level of the enterprise. When properly implemented, this “one thing” has the power to transform a sluggish operation into a vibrant enterprise with the excitement and passion to empower sales, customer retention and employee moral.

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About the Author

Michael Adams, Emerald Business Services
P.O. Box 1875
Ramona, CA 92065

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