Focus Like Steve Jobs Did!

November 14, 2011

I spend a tremendous amount of effort trying to get company management teams to focus on customer segments, products, and the simplest go-to-market strategies during the expansion stage.  The cleaner the focus, the easier it is to build scalable methodologies, teams of great people, and management systems to scale up a company.

Somehow, focus is one of the issues that management teams have the most difficulty with, so I have worked on refining different arguments to get the idea across.  One of the points that I started making more recently is that Steve Jobs, a hero to most entrepreneurs, focused Apple as a key step when he came back to its leadership team in the mid-1990s.

I just came across this video of Steve talking about this re-focus at Apple’s Developer Conference in 1997.

Apple’s focus allowed the company to come out with a string of new offerings, essentially fewer products that were much more differentiated.  They included iMac, Macbook, iPod, iPhone, MacBook Air, and iPad — so far.

You may be too young a company to have too many products, but I will bet that you have the following:

  • Too many customer segments (that you think of as a single segment because you are too product focused), so you aren’t able to truly differentiate your whole product strategy, go-to-market strategy, or both.
  • Too many product features and not enough focus on the few product features that will truly separate you from the pack.
  • A lot of noise in marketing and distribution, because you have too much frantic activity in sales and marketing due to your lack of focus on your market clarity.

This may sound a little harsh, but frankly EVERY company can get better with its focus and most companies can get a lot better!

What do you think?  Is it time for you to focus like Steve Jobs did?

Note: you may argue that Apple is getting unfocused given all of the great products that it has.  As Apple has grown, it has been able to multiply the number of products that it can focus on at any one time, but the products still all fit together into a comprehensive whole and Apple’s major focus is on people like you and me owning as many of the products in the product family as possible!  They also came out with the products one at a time and are very clear about the product upgrade slots and how they all work together to maximize market impact.

Founder & Partner

As the founder of OpenView, Scott focuses on distinctive business models and products that uniquely address a meaningful market pain point. This includes a broad interest in application and infrastructure companies, and businesses that are addressing the next generation of technology, including SaaS, cloud computing, mobile platforms, storage, networking, IT tools, and development tools.