Profound change happens in a startup one dollar at a time and it is a founders job to make sure that stays in focus.

I still wake up every day amazed at the entrepreneurial possibilities that have unfolded over the last 20 years. It’s never been easier to start something new but it’s never been harder to contain the breadth of the idea to see it through to a business.

Great operators know that a business without focus is a doomed one. There needs to be a relentless fixation on the problem they are trying to solve and for whom. I frame it as remaining as close as possible to the dollar.

Staying close to the dollar means really understanding what your ideal customer will pay for that helps them solve a real problem right now. Business is not complicated: Other companies have a problem that needs to be solved. You have devised a way to solve it for all of them.

The focus muscle comes in when you have collected that first dollar. The temptation is to branch from your core and try to solve another problem for the same customer instead of finding more customers that have the same problem. This is where startups fail.

Three really relevant examples come to mind around focus — these are things that I see companies doing too early and at their peril.

  1. Expanding too quickly into new markets (that could be new cities or new verticals)
  2. Building features that are only impactful for a small percentage of customers
  3. Spray and pray marketing initiatives

The closest path to revenue is selling your existing product to more customers. The focus and discipline it takes to do this is what differentiates great operators and companies from the rest.