Date: 04/05/2015 | By: Liz Painter

Kevin Brent is an experienced and entrepreneurial business practitioner with a focus on strategy, business development and maximising value. He is a core advisor for BizSmart clients and co-founder of BizSmart. 

To listen to Kevin delivering a webinar on the topic of Direction and Focus

Running a business is a challenge and it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Where are you going? What should you focus on to get there?


In the business lifecycle (conception, birth, infant, teenager, adult) most businesses get stuck as infants or troublesome teenagers – never quite making it to adulthood and maturity.


Perhaps some elements of the business are working, but it’s not all plain sailing for you. Has the business become your life? You might feel like you’re just about keeping your head above water but sometimes it all gets on top of you and you wonder if it’s really worth it.


So how do some businesses (around 4 out of 100) make it to adulthood and seem totally in control? Is there a magic bullet or 7 Fantastic Tips that will suddenly transform your business?


I’m sure you know better than that by now and, of course, I can’t give you all the answers in a short blog post. But there are things you CAN do. So it’s not a quick fix – more like a journey.


Like any journey, you need to know where you are going. “Here we go again,” I hear you say, “you’re going to tell me I need a clever vision or a mission statement”.


Well, kind of, but think of it this way… To succeed in business we need to have good leadership and good management. There shouldn’t be too much debate there!


So what is leadership and what is management?


Leadership is about doing the right things (direction, strategy, focus or ‘what we do’), and management is about doing things right (tactics and control or ‘how we do it’).


So to succeed in business we have agreed you need good leadership and good management. And leadership is about direction – knowing where we are headed and building a plan of how to get there.


At BizSmart, we always start here. If you don’t know where you are headed, how can you focus on the right things – the things that are important. Firstly we look at your core values – what drives you and what do you want your business to stand for? We generally look for a handful – not too many.


These are not just nice words to stick on the wall and write on your website. These are authentic values that your business stands for and that it will still stand for in 100 years time. For each core value you need to understand what it means – so each core value will have a description. If they are authentic core values then your team or anyone else working in the business needs to buy into them – so would they agree with those values?


And then you need to makes sure they are embedded into your organisation. How are you ensuring that your business ‘lives’ these values and does not just pay ‘lip service’ to them?


Once you have your core values and have ‘tested’ them for authenticity you need to get to the bottom of your core purpose. You need to think about what is your business really about (rather than what it does). Start with the ‘what’ but ask yourself ‘why’ you do that and keep asking until you get to the real reason you are in business.


So a telephone call minding service we work with came up with “Creating the right first impression for our customers”. 3M came up with “Solving unsolved problems, innovatively”.


A good core purpose would pass the same ‘authenticity’ tests as the core values and help you think expansively about the things you could do (not necessarily now but at some point) but also helps you decide on things you would not do.


Steve Jobs put it this way, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”


If you don’t know your core purpose, how do you know what to say no to? So good leadership and direction starts with understanding and communicating your core values and your core purpose – but it does not end there!


Look out for subsequent blogs with the next steps in the journey to more focus and control.


Key Lessons

If you want to regain direction and focus – the starting point has to be to make sure you have a strong set of core values and a powerful core purpose.


Develop your core values and test for authenticity. What do the words mean to your business?


  1. If you were to start anew, would you build it around this core value regardless of industry?
  2. Would you want your business to continue to stand for this core value 100 years into the future?
  3. Would you want your business to stay true to this even if at some point it becomes a competitive disadvantage?
  4. Do you believe that those who do not share this core value simply do not belong in your business?
  5. Would you personally hold this value even if you were not rewarded for it?

Develop you core purpose and test for authenticity – start with ‘what’ you do but then ask ‘why?’ or ‘so what?’


  1. Do you find it inspiring?
  2. Can you see it being valid 100 years from now?
  3. Does it help you to think expansively about the activities you could do?
  4. Does it help you to decide what activities not to pursue?
  5. Is it authentic – true to what the business is about – not merely words that sound nice?
  6. Would other people who know the business – staff, customers, suppliers, family friends greet it with enthusiasm?

To listen to Kevin delivering a webinar on the topic of Direction and Focus