Cinderella: A Lesson in Focus

For all of us who have children, nieces, nephews, a godchild, or friends with children, we have all seen or heard the story of Cinderella, but very few understand the important business lesson to be learned from this children's story.

It is a beautiful tale of wishing for something with all of your heart and believing that one day it will come true. This is not the focus of this post, however, but rather it is a keen observation of a lesson perhaps even more relevant today.

To learn the lesson, we must trace the story of Cinderella back to it's origins and before Walt Disney opted to make it an animated movie.  The original tale of Cinderella or "The Little Glass Slipper" was originally written by Charles Perrault in 1697 and adapted by the Grimm Brothers in 1812.

For the purpose of today's post, we must focus on a little know fact from the original story: Cinderella did not attend the ball for the Prince once and lose her shoe, but instead she attended the ball two nights in a row.

A simple tale

The original story opens much like the animated movie, but it deviates from the movie in that Cinderella does not got to the ball to meet the Prince just once.  She goes two consecutive nights.

The first time she is very focused, she visits with everyone, and although she spends a great deal of time with the Prince, she is also reserved, and remembers the most important details of her spell: she must be home before midnight.  She watches the clock diligently and takes her leave 15 minutes before midnight.

The second night is not so much like the first. She spends all her time with the Prince and is so wrapped up in the wonderment of his attentions that she loses all track of time.  Not careful to pay attention the details of time, the clock strikes midnight and she must run before the spell is undone. She loses a slipper and does not make it home before the magic has worn off.

Fortunately, the Prince seeks her out and everyone lives happily ever after.

A simple truth

So how does this apply to American businesses?  There is a process of decay that occurs with most small and medium businesses.  It is the decay of razor sharp focus.

Most small businesses are very careful to pay attention to every detail for a period of time, but after they have several successes under their belt, they relax just a bit believing that they have earned a bit of a break or reward.  Unfortunately, the attention to every detail was the magic that won them the successes they are celebrating.  Sales volumes begin a gradual march downhill, and the Owner is left believing that they must spend more on marketing in order to reverse this trend.

The incredible irony is that he will see minimal to modest increases from these tactics and convince himself that the only solution is to continue to snowball his marketing costs.  But to resolve this problem he needs to fix the issue of focus before he increases marketing spend.

A simple test

If you have seen your revenue start the impending downhill trudge, look back at the details you focused on when you first started your business. You will find that not everything you were focusing on was making you successful, but if you will identify those details that truly differentiated you from the competition, you can refocus to reverse that downward trend.  There is no more powerful magic to accomplish your dreams than the power of focus.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I lost focus on value delivery because I am focused on logistics?
  2. Have I lost focus on execution because I am focused on the big picture?
  3. Have I lost focus on what differentiated my unique value proposition?
"Focus on the right things and you will get the right results" -- Walt Disney