Like most people, I thought I understood what Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was all about. After all, the conversation about why some kids have a really hard time settling down and focusing in the classroom has been going on since the 1980s.
Over the years, I’ve had classmates and colleagues who were diagnosed, and through interactions with them I thought I knew what the situation was. It wasn’t until I started living with my beau, Rob, who has ADD, that I began to truly appreciate the magnitude of the condition and how it impacts everyday life.
ADD isn’t about a lack of focus. Rob can be exceptionally focused. However, his intense focus only lasts for a brief period of time. Then, in what feels like the blink of an eye, Rob’s focused on something else … and then something else, and then something else: it’s easy to see why it’s hard to get things done. The constant change in focus means using up a lot of energy without seeing a lot of results. Luckily, there are treatments for ADD. It’s absolutely amazing what a difference medication and behavioral strategies have made in Rob’s life. With them, he can control his focus and achieve his goals.
The other thing I found amazing about this whole situation was how familiar it all seemed. The rapid changes in focus, the inability to see a task through from beginning to end, the frustration that comes with never being able to accomplish desired goals … I’d seen all of this before, among my small business clients.
Small Business Focus: Understanding What’s Happening
I have worked with small business owners for over twenty years, and I can count on one hand the number who have had a clear vision for their company . Much more common is the scenario where an entrepreneur has a good idea and decides to run with it — they’re not exactly sure where they’re headed, but they have enough energy and enthusiasm to get things started.
Along the way, challenges arise and different opportunities present themselves. The business owner’s attention is drawn in a million directions. Every concern has its turn in the spotlight — but it’s only a brief shining moment before some other issue takes the stage. If an organization could be diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, these companies might have Small Business ADD.
This lack of consistent focus has real consequences for the business. Growth is often slow. When goals aren’t met, owners become frustrated. Feeling like they’re falling behind in the marketplace can lead to reactive decision making. Rather than focusing on a long-term strategy, choices are made based on what a competitor is doing, industry buzzwords, or whatever bright and shiny solution happens to capture the owner’s attention at that moment. It’s an impulsive process that easily becomes a business behavior, as one rapidly-made bad decision leads to another.
Do You Have Small Business Focus Issues?
Relying entirely on self-diagnosis is not a good idea in healthcare. The same is true for business. Before you decide your company does or doesn’t have Small Business ADD, it’s a good idea to talk with one of your trusted advisors. Discuss the goals you have for your company, and the progress you’ve made toward them. If things haven’t gone as you would have liked, is an identifiable lack of focus part of the reason why?
ADD management involves learning how to be more aware of one’s behaviors, as well as strategic decision making processes. Business owners who have a hard time maintaining focus can benefit from both of these. Simply logging all the issues that capture your attention over the course of a day can be an eye-opening exercise.
Small Business Focus: It Helps To Get Help
Learning to make more strategic decisions is a long-term process. Many people find it helpful to work with a business coach or mentor to develop a clear vision for their company, as well as techniques for consistently focusing efforts in a way that will allow organizational goals to be achieved. Non-profit small business development organizations like SCORE can be a very valuable resource if you don’t have those support systems in place already.
Another resource is the professionals you’re already working with. Vendors and agencies may be able to help you stay on track as well but you have to be willing to let them remind you of what your stated priorities and goals are. These reminders can slow down the decision-making process enough to ensure you’re clear that the choices you’re making are choices that move your company in the direction you want to go.
It’s Never Too Late to Make Changes
Many people who have ADD are diagnosed with it as children, but many don’t find out why they have a hard time maintaining focus until they are adults. The good news is that it is never too late to start proactively managing ADD. The same is true for Small Business ADD. Even if you’ve been in business for many years, you can make the organizational changes that will result in improved performance.
Bored  Photo via Shutterstock