I loved the movie Up, as did many.  And, of course, one of the enduring images was of Dug the dog noticing squirrels.

I can relate.

I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, and one of the challenges that they often have is noticing too many opportunities.  Of course, we affectionately call these distractions “squirrel!”  It’s best done with the particular voice inflection.

Entrepreneurs, by nature, notice opportunities.  In fact, that’s one of the core qualities that makes them successful.  You see something that’s a need, you make the connection with value you can provide, and – squirrel! – you have a new business.  I love the energy that comes from it.

The problem arises is that entrepreneurs often don’t have the patience to stick it through the hard and boring work.  In order to do that, you have to become – ugh – a manager.  It can feel like you’re selling your soul.

If you haven’t read it yet, E-myth does a pretty good job of explaining this dynamic.  It also talks about the third role, the technician, which needs to kick in as well.  The challenge is to achieve a balance – whether that’s within you as an individual, or with a group of people who have different talents.

The challenge is not to squash out your inspiration and entrepreneurial tendencies.  It’s to use that energy, while not getting distracted from other core parts of your business.

One technique I’ve seen used well is to create something called a “parking lot.”  The idea is that you have a specific place to “park” ideas that you’ll come back to later when you can actually consider them in the thoughtful context of the larger business.

I’ve also seen some people who can effectively just add an artificial delay into any opportunity:  “I promise that I’ll wait 24 hours before seriously thinking about it.”  This delay helps to reduce that emotional excitement that can come from seeing “new shiny objects.”

In both these cases, though, you want to have a different plan for handling the urgent opportunities that DO contribute to your strategy.  If you had a great customer call up wanting to spend a wad of money with you right away – yes, you’d hop on that.  Use all your energy and passion to deliver a great response.

The “squirrels” you want to slow down are those which drag you AWAY from the direction your current strategy would indicate.

And, by the way, that’s exactly why we work with our clients to write the strategy down.  It makes these kinds of decisions much, much easier.

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