De-focus and see solution

Learning to de-focus as an entrepreneur

Aside from being a good all round multi-tasker, many entrepreneurs learn to focus a little less on specific problems and look at the overall picture.

As a manager, we are often tasked with a specific problem and focusing on the solution is the only way to really conclude the task at hand. 

As an entrepreneur, that focus can actually slow the boat.

Think of it like a 3D stereogram. Focus on them and you will see nothing but clutter and “noise”.

Often, that is the case for a modern entrepreneur, but learning to de-focus your vision allows you to see the solution.

As a consultant in business, I have the privilege of being able to hover about 20,000 feet over the problem. While nothing may be in clear focus, the challenges become very clear in most instances.

For a CEO or entrepreneur, learning to step away from the business and fly over it can help greatly in finding efficiency. Getting the high-altitude overview of the operation is often an art rather than a science, but once mastered, the ship can be steered much more easily.

In a rapidly changing economy and a business that often has many moving parts, the ability to use peripheral vision to see opportunity or challenges is critical.

Like a good marksman on a rifle, while one eye is keenly focused on the target, the other remains vigilant (and open) to keep an overall picture of the surrounding territory.

Just like the marksman or sniper, we need to feed the overall image of our business to our brain in order to make the best decisions.

Moving, stress free

When I was a realtor, I always counselled clients on understanding that moving is one of the most stressful things we can embark on.

I can tell you (largely from my wife’s experience) moving from a large home to a smaller home only compounds the feeling.

Back in 1995, my wife and I sold an old, seven-bedroom guest house to build a home for our family.

Everything went smoothly until I had a meeting crop up that took me out of town. I have no idea to this day why that meeting was so important. Clearly, if I cannot remember, it wasn’t.

Where a cat has nine lives, I seem to have nine chances to dodge a complete divorce and this may very well have been the first one. Not only did I leave my wife at home in Canmore with both the children, but I also had planned the move on my own and to a certain extent accomplished it.

On closing day, however, a series of events unfolded that left my wife in utter distress, perhaps in large part, due to our naiveté. We had heard that the new owners intended to run a B&B also, so we decided single handedly to leave all the beautiful hand-crafted, Douglas fir beds and furnishings as well as the appliances.

We wanted to be a friendly seller. 

All was going swimmingly until my wife was told to remove everything by 9 a.m. or some other ridiculous time frame. Not knowing where to turn, she called a good friend who owned a development company and asked to borrow a trailer.

Instead, Frank showed up and proceeded to untie the knot I had tied in such an accomplished manner.

They say that experience is the ability to recognize a mistake the second time you make it, and in our recent move this past week, I did not want to become experienced.

Instead, I craftily set a move out date two days before we needed to and cancelled all meetings so I could remain in a state of blissful matrimony.

I found out what a chore it is to move on your own from a big house to a smaller house. 

Thankfully, I was not on my own. Friends, family and sometimes almost strangers chipped in at the last minute to smooth the transition. We had a plan to leave at 6 a.m. and left at 6 p.m. with a day and half in hand.

At midnight we pulled in to Kaslo, jumped in to bed and woke up about nine hours later — refreshed and almost ready to contemplate unloading in to the new house.

We will miss the Okanagan and will be frequent visitors, but for now we are buttoning up our lumberjack shirts and getting ready for Kaslo’s biggest event of the year, the Steampunk themed May festival, complete with a logging sports event.

We are now truly Kaslovians.

Frequent-flyer joys

I did a lot of flying for business last year and, as a result, became an Elite Status client for one of Canada’s largest airlines.

I was excited that flying in 2017 might be a little easier and slightly more comfortable.

As December approached, my welcome package arrived in the mail. Shiny, posh little luggage tags that now allowed me to walk past long line ups and check in on a priority basis. Upgrade tickets so I could enjoy the comforts at the front of the plane and relax a little for my next meetings.

Frankly, the package was more than a little confusing, so I took to Google to try to find out what all of the privileges meant.

In many instances, not a lot.

My first flight of the year was eventful. I checked in at Kelowna and found out that my connecting flight from Calgary had been canceled.

I talked to the gate agent in the departure lounge and asked if the airline would accommodate me with a hotel, they certainly would she indicated, but not their airline because it was a “code share.”

it would be United who would joyfully help me out.

Then came the next opportunity that allowed me to be a good Samaritan.

The first flight was overbooked; who wanted to get off?

Oh, me. I am in no rush. I have no flight out of Calgary and just a hotel to go to. I walked up to the gate and offered my seat. The gate agent was very pleased and heaped a pile of gift certificates on me.

I confirmed again, that even though I was in no rush, I would get a hotel. Correct she indicated. Go see United Airlines.

Later in the day, I arrived in Calgary and walked through security. I had had to change hotels at my final destination because the airline could not get me there and found out that I was too late to cancel.

So I was already down a few hundred dollars. 

I walked from security to the very last desk at YYC — United Airlines. “I have come to get my hotel details,” I exclaimed.

Not from here, I was told; your own airline will deal with that.

I must admit I was a tad frustrated and I had just walked past my airlines desk half a kilometre ago. I told the check-in clerk to get my airline on the phone and sort it out because I did not enjoy being a ping pong ball.

Off I went to my airline. “Sorry no hotels; it is a weather delay out of our control."

Now, I was a little heated. I exclaimed that I checked at the gate in Kelowna and was told there would be a hotel. I stepped off my flight to accommodate my airline's own booking error and now no hotel.

To make a long story short, after about 15 minutes of phone calls, the help desk exclaimed that because of my status, I do get a hotel and a nice one. Too late; I was really frustrated and tired of being bounced around, but nice to know my status helps.

More recently, I was late for a flight from Kelowna. My first grand daughter was born overnight at KGH and I decided to go give her a hug.

Given the traffic to the airport, I arrived only 25 minutes before my flight. Too late.

I get it. My fault. But they gave me a standby boarding pass and said good luck.

I ran through customs went to the gate and the gate agent said I had no ticket because of my lateness. The flight was full, but there was a chance a seat might open up.

Suddenly, just before they closed the doors I was called to the gate. My chance had come. She explained that a passenger had arrived late and was hurrying through customs, but was unable to make the flight if he did not come through in the next minute.

We waited for two minutes and then she said, “There he is, sorry, we can’t help you; the next flight is in three hours."

I sat down and wondered how 30 minutes before my flight I was not allowed to access my paid for ticker and yet as the doors closed another passenger came running through security and took my seat… perhaps my status was not that good.

Last night, I finished my work on Vancouver Island and thought my status allows me standby privileges. Rather than stay the extra night - I will see if I can get out on standby.

I attempted to check in last night and was told by an extremely snooty desk agent that “there is no such thing as standby, but I could spend $300 for a ticket home from Nanaimo."

I asked her to check at my status level. No standby according to her, just the option to buy another ticket.

Begrudgingly, I booked a hotel and stayed for an additional night. At my hotel, I called my airline special status helpline. “No such thing as standby for even our top tier passengers” the lady exclaimed.

“OK, I get that” I said, adding “but what does the line Airport Priority Standby mean in my privileges section?”

I was told by the second person that it does not say that, this time by an expert on my status who clearly knew a lot more than me. Confused I asked again what it means in my “privileges section” by the statement “Airport Priority Standby?”

I was told to write to customer service to get an answer. Really? Thank you Air Canada. Can somebody please tell me what “Airport Priority Standby” means? Is it a clandestine code for another service I have yet to discover?


Organize your MITs

I’m too busy.

How many times have you caught yourself saying that?

The age-old challenge seems to raise it’s head more and more in my world. In reality however, “I am too busy” is not a good excuse for poor time management.

Many years ago, I realized that I could get a higher volume of important tasks done in a day if I were organized and had a plan.

It led to the ability to be able to take on more tasks and also focus on what is important in my life. We have to juggle many priorities, business, marriage, parenthood, etc. Knowing the plan within each of those contexts allows us to say “no” a lot more than we traditionally would do.

That is exactly what has saved my bacon a few times.

Local motivational speaker Hugh Culver, in his book Give Me A Break, talks about how much time we waste in a given day.

Hugh talks about the Big three time killers being:

  • email
  • distractions (social media perhaps)
  • meetings (many of which are not necessary or too long at best!).

His calculations might surprise you. On a 250 day working year (normal), if we spend 1.75 hours per day on email, one hour per day with interruptions, and one hour per day in meetings, then we have used 23 weeks of our year, largely unnecessarily.

At best we can be more efficient.

How many of you work with lists?

My dad was a list guru. He would give me lists for everything. As soon as I looked at one, another one would arrive and so I am not a big fan of lists.

However, one of my mentors used the concept of MIT — Most Important Tasks.

What do you really want to get done by the end of the month perhaps?

You should never have more than two or three MITs and 80 per cent of your focus should be on achieving those critical tasks. Everything else plays second fiddle to your critical tasks. 

So what do you do with the rest? Don't do it, outsource it or find some time from somewhere else to make it happen.

The best filing cabinet I have is the trash can. Saying no to a task can be challenging but wisely used, it can park most of the “urgent” jobs in the bin where they belong so that you can focus on the “important” jobs — the MITs.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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