"Nothing succeeds in life...or in business...like a carefully selected, carefully chiseled focus." This quote sums up the message of Al Ries's instructional masterpiece, Focus: figure out what works and home in on it.
Because the book was written with reforming corporate America clearly in the crosshairs, networkers might justifiably wonder whether or not Al Ries's material is applicable to them and their businesses. Try this: substitute "networker" for the word "company" throughout the book; the answer will leap off the pages and hit you right between the eyes!
A few examples: "Winning networkers are the most focused." "The time has come to develop a networker's power by narrowing his or her focus." And here's a jewel: "The biggest single barrier to the development of an effective networking strategy is the strongly held belief that a networker has to appeal to the entire market."
Mr. Ries is clear about certain business precepts: for one, he prefers simplicity for the sake of clarity. He quotes Harvard Business School's Michael Porter, the "competitive" guru (author of Competitive Strategy, On Competition et al.) to support his beliefs: "What we keep learning over and over again is that focus is better than diversity and complexity." And another B-school heavyweight, Peter Drucker: "Concentration is the key to economic results. Economic results require that managers [networkers] concentrate their efforts on the smallest number of activities that will produce the largest amount of revenue...." In a word, focus.
In his introduction, Ries offers the following observation: The sun is massive and capable of showering the planet with billions of kilowatts of energy hourly, yet with a little sunscreen we can frolic unscathed under its rays for hours. A laser beam, on the other hand, can drill a hole in a diamond with only a few watts of concentrated, focused energy. If you want powerful results, focus.
Bob Proctor once told me, "There is one thing we know about focus: it's an accelerator." If you want to grow your business, focus. If you are a little unsure about how, spend a few minutes of your time with Al Ries, who passionately urges you: "Focus, the future of your business depends on it."
Al Ries borrows heavily and expands on his earlier (and somewhat easier-to-read) classic, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, co-written with Jack Trout (HarperBusiness1993). Readers interested in marketing principles and branding issues may find this book a valuable resource.
Paperback, 304 pages; $15.95; HarperBusiness.