Focus on the parts of your business that won't change

At the Entrepreneurs Unplugged event (sold out!) last week Talia Mashiach, CEO & Founder of Eved,  Jason Fried, Founder & President of 37Signals, and Shawn Riegsecker, Founder & President of Centro talked about their struggles, failures and successes in building their companies. An over-arching theme throughout the event was “focus,” and what parts of your business you should be really focusing on in order to achieve success – The core of your business, your people and your culture.

Focus on the Core of Your Business   

Jason Fried talked about how you need to focus on the parts of your business that won’t change. Take for example a restaurant. In a restaurant business, food and service are the main essential parts of the business. People will never want food that tastes bad, or have poor waiting service – that will never change. Focus on serving high quality food, and always delivering exceptional service. Restaurants that lose focus on these two things go out of business. Ever see Kitchen Nightmares with Chef Ramsay? If you have, you’ll know what I mean. Any effort you put into improving those two areas will benefit your business for a long time.

Focus on People

People make your business, but you have control of the culture and who’s in it. Jason Fried also shared a few really great thoughts on hiring.

“Someone already on the team needs to try the job first.. You’ve got to understand the job before you can hire someone for it.”

He went on to talk about how he’s had his employees do the work of two jobs before, until the pain got bad enough where they had to hire another person.

“Don’t hire staff based on the expectation of potential business. Hire only after you’ve done the job and until it hurts.”

Business is unpredictable. With small businesses, bringing on a new employee is a big expense, and makes a significant impact on the company in comparison to hiring a new employee at big corporation. Labor is almost always the #1 biggest expense for small businesses, and until you have the business – don’t hire. Utilize your resources until their maxed out. Both Shawn & Jason hit hard on the idea – “don’t hire until it hurts – until it really hurts.”

Attendees were hanging out on twitter during the event and engaging in conversation the hashtag #entunpluggd. It was also the same night President Obama was giving his State of the Union Address where he focused heavily on jobs. Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios made the comment:

@crestodina “Obama at #SOTU: “More private sector jobs!” @jasonfried and @ShawnRiegsecker at #entunpluggd: “Hire as slow and late as possible!” 🙂

Entrepreneurs and politicians see the world very differently!

Focus on the Culture 

Shawn Riegsecker also hit on the idea that your people should share the same vision as you and your company. Shawn then focused a lot on having a great company culture, and the steps he took at his company that eventually led Centro  to be chosen as Crain’s Chicago’s #1 place to work. “…So I started with this, what would the company need to look like for me to be the most productive, successful, happy employee I could possibly be?” He boiled it down to one idea – happiness. It really came down to the employee’s happiness and whether or not they really looked forward to coming into the office that day.

To figure out what he could do to implement this idea into his company’s culture, he asked himself when he felt happiest. “(I’m happiest ) when I’m emotionally maturing, when I’m getting better at something and I feel like I’m moving forward.” He took this idea and implemented it into his company. Centro’s culture is “focused on the growth and well being of the individual,” and in turn their people focus on the company. Why “happiness” and not a reward-based culture? He explained (and other studies prove) that happy employees are better workers, (even over reward/incentive-based performance company cultures). Happy employees create  great culture, which in turn not only attracts great talent, but also retains great talent.

Make 2012 a year about focus. Focus not only on day-to-day operations, but big picture ideas for your company. With that said, what are you focusing on in 2012?


Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. Great post and a nice follow-up to the event. I think you hit the nail on the head: the “focus” message was one of the most memorable and important.

    And it’s fun you remembered that Tweet! Interesting how politics is often idealistic and business is just so real…

  2. Thanks, Andy! The tweet was too good not to forget. I got a good laugh out of it. And you could not be more right about politics & business…

  3. Love this

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