Focus – what does that mean?

 In Industry News

I suppose we all use the word “focus” several times a day. Here are some examples of how we use the word:

  • What is your focus?
  • Where is your focus?
  • We focus on the software-driven industries!
  • We focus on business development!
  • Executive search is not our focus.
  • We focus on mature companies.
  • We focus on the enterprise segment.
  • We focus on startups.
  • We focus on the banking sector.
  • We focus on Germany.
  • We focus on profitability, not growth.
  • We focus on growth, not profitability.
  • Etc. etc.
Sometimes we will hear the word “focus” used in a context very far away from its’ original definition.
Check this example:

Question: “What is your focus?”

Answer: “We focus on 5 vertical industries: Solutions for Libraries, electronic CAD, integrated solutions for newspapers, solutions for vocational schools and document management for Government”

Question: “Do you also develop your own hardware?”

Answer: “Yes, we develop and manufacture a powerful range of UNIX based computers.”

Question: “In how many countries do you operate?”

Answer: “We have subsidiaries in Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Malaysia and the UK.”

Question: “Do you serve the five vertical industries in each country?”

Answer: “More or less.”

Question: “How many people are you?”

Answer: 400.

Doing the simple mathematics: 400 people developing software as well as hardware. Let’s assume that 25 people are in administration and business support. Let’s assume that 50 people are busy with the hardware and software platforms and 50 with developing the applications. This leaves 275 people for sales, marketing, product management, support, implementation etc. Serving 5 completely different vertical software areas gives an average of 55 people per business vertical. Serving 6 different geographic markets gives an average of 9 people per vertical market per country.

If the example above represents a focused approach, then what does a de-focused approach look like?

Focus is the discipline of concentrating all our efforts on ONE business area.

Big corporations can afford (and sometimes forced to) to run businesses, which are unrelated (Microsoft, Samsung, Mitsui, General Electric, IBM, HP etc.), small companies cannot. However, the big corporations will have a divisionalized structure, where each division or business unit is extremely focused, while top executive management is focusing on leadership, KPI’s and global strategic issues (where to be and where not to be). Big corporations started as small companies with a clear focus. The diversification came later, when they needed new areas to support growth.

If you are a 400 people company active in 5 vertical markets in 6 countries, then you are defocused. You have spread your resources thinly and your execution power in each area is close to insignificant.


Here are a selection of contradictory applications of the concept of focusing.

  • We focus on several vertical segments
  • We focus on Germany, Japan and Brazil
  • We focus on growth as well as on profit
  • We focus on product leadership, while maintaining a lean operation and staying close to our customers.
  • We focus on all type of companies

The word used is focus, but in reality the approach is defocused.

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