Defining a corporate vision is a complex process, with many components that factor into the final vision. As we coach businesses using the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®), we help our clients consider each component in turn. One of the most rewarding of these activities is helping our clients achieve clarity around their company’s Core Focus™.
While leadership teams readily get behind defining their core values and are hyped to set “big, hairy, audacious goals” (to use the term coined by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras), they may not realize how identifying their Core Focus can be an extremely effective strategic weapon in today’s competitive marketplace.
A company’s Core Focus has two parts and is explained by EOS Worldwide in this way:
“The first part of defining your Core Focus is to discover your ‘Why’ – your common purpose, cause, or passion. It’s why you get out of bed in the morning, why you’re excited to come to work, and why all the hard work is worth it in the end….The second part of your Core Focus is to identify your ‘What.’ We call this your niche – the thing you can be truly great at and enjoy doing.”
For example, Mary Kay’s purpose is “to give unlimited opportunity to women,” and EOS Worldwide has defined their niche as “helping entrepreneurial leadership teams gain traction.”
Gaining clarity about your core focus is a strategic weapon for three reasons. First, it energizes your team. Think about the EOS definition quoted above – your Core Focus is what you are passionate about. It gets you excited. It is something you are great at. You enjoy doing it. Right there, you can see why leadership teams get pumped when they really dig into their Core Focus.
When you sit down with your leadership team to discuss your Core Focus, don’t assume that you will clarify it in five minutes. Chances are, someone will toss out an idea that may be close, but not precisely what you want to embrace as a company. You will need to dialogue back and forth and gain everyone’s input. Disagreeing is okay, too. After a while, there is usually an “ah-ha” moment – a certain phrase or a particular statement lands on the table that resonates with the team. You know you have found your company’s Core Focus when everyone aligns and you feel inspiration flood your team.
Second, identifying your Core Focus empowers you to play to your strengths. When you combine the “Why” and the “What” and nail what you are absolutely best at, you gain a strategic filter through which you can evaluate new business ideas so that you exclusively play to your strengths. This is tremendously powerful for agile and successful decision-making!
For instance, suppose you are top-notch in providing enterprise applications for the institutional investment industry. One of your developers broaches the idea of an application that could benefit individual investors. It may be a great idea, but it does not pass the Core Focus filter. There is no point in putting either time or effort into pursuing the concept. In contrast, suppose that you have an opportunity to partner with a firm that collects and analyzes institutional investment data. Such a partnership is precisely aligned with your Core Focus and should be pursued aggressively.
Third, when you know your Core Focus, you can use it to assess risk intelligently. Since the market landscape and your business are always undergoing either subtle or not-so-subtle changes, there are going to be times when you want to take up an opportunity that is outside your Core Focus. At that point, your Core Focus will require you to acknowledge that the opportunity is not aligned with your stated reason for being. You will then need to present a thorough risk assessment that demonstrates why it is worth the company’s investment of time, money, and resources to tackle an initiative that is outside your Core Focus.
If your leadership team has not yet clarified your company’s Core Focus, do not lose any time in doing so. This is a strategic weapon you want to have in your hand every day!