Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole

Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) and Mastering Boredom

June 29, 2021 Robert Poole Season 1 Episode 80
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) and Mastering Boredom
Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole
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Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) and Mastering Boredom
Jun 29, 2021 Season 1 Episode 80
Robert Poole

Have you ever found yourself chasing too many ideas, businesses, or strategies, and realized later that you are spread too thin and accomplished none of them? This is called Shiny Object Syndrome. The question is how do we avoid this pitfall and keep our focus on the things that really matter. Let's talk about some ideas to mitigate distraction.

Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever found yourself chasing too many ideas, businesses, or strategies, and realized later that you are spread too thin and accomplished none of them? This is called Shiny Object Syndrome. The question is how do we avoid this pitfall and keep our focus on the things that really matter. Let's talk about some ideas to mitigate distraction.

Hey everyone. It's Robert Poole with the Growing Your B2B Small Business Podcast. Have you ever found yourself jumping from idea to idea in your business and not following through on any of them? I know I have. The same qualities that make us successful entrepreneurs and business owners can also really hamper the growth in our companies. Let's talk about how to keep ourselves in check.

You have a small business that sells to other businesses. If so, you probably know that there are plenty of resources for companies that market to consumers or companies that sell to large and Fortune 500 type of companies. But what about the small businesses in the middle who sell other companies, where do we go to get answers? How do we grow our company consistently while still keeping our sanity? That's the question, and this podcast is the answer. If you're listening to this podcast, you're part of an elite group of achievers who aren't willing to settle for just a nine to five job. You're one of the heroes in our society and you should be proud of it. Welcome to the tribe and welcome home.

Okay, everyone, I hope you're having an awesome day to day. In the last episode, we talked about avoiding the temptation to focus on the front end of a big sale or a deal and how there really is a lot more money waiting for us that we often leave on the table. Today, I want to talk about an issue that I think a lot of people have a hard time with in general, but entrepreneurs and business owners tend to have an even harder time with. And I know firsthand because it's always been a battle to keep myself in check when it comes to this. The issue I'm talking about is the "Shiny Object Syndrome." I think human beings in general fall into this habit really easily in many areas of our life. Entrepreneurs and business owners, we're some of the worst in the business world though because of our typical attributes.

But before we talk specifically about the Shiny Object Syndrome, let's talk about entrepreneurial tendencies and the qualities that we generally have. Now, of course, these are generalizations, but I think you'll agree that at least one or more of them kind of fits you. In general, we're creative, we like to move fast and we aren't really waiting around for someone to tell us what to do. We also take risk more than the average person. I mean, some of us are crazy risk takers, and others are more measured, but still risk takers. We're also the visionaries in our society who see the potential of ideas and actually do something about those ideas instead of just sitting there and talking about them. We're generally optimistic about things and look at the upside of any particular idea. And often we have a fascination with a lot of different things in life, in business, same thing.

And finally, most of us are constantly looking for ways to improve ourselves and our companies in much more than the average person on the street is I think. I mean, if you weren't looking to improve things, you wouldn't be listening to this podcast in the first place. So, those are all great attributes to have and necessary to have in business if we want to succeed in the long run. However, like most things in business and life, there's also a flip side to these same positive qualities, and if not managed right, can really hold us back.

Number one, because we get excited about new ideas and ways to improve and so on, it's very easy for us to get distracted. I mean, this can be on a small scale of checking your social media stuff about some new ideas somebody said to implementing large projects that are major distraction what you should be doing. A lot of us tend to get bored after we're in business for some period of time, and we may have figured out how to be profitable, things are humming along. It's no longer a nail biter to succeed at some level. We feel like we're doing repetitive activities that just aren't as fun as they once were.

And this boredom sometimes leaves us to want to change things. And if we're honest, sometimes just for the sake of changing things. We can literally create problems that weren't there just because we need to change and get back to that problem solving mentality that makes us good entrepreneurs in the first place. Because we're not waiting around for someone to give us permission to act or tell us what to do, we're usually fast movers. And this speed is necessary more and more in business these days but speed can also cause you to miss important details that can derail you quickly.

Another downside to our optimism is that we sometimes don't want to acknowledge the risk of an idea and the downside. Much easier to focus on the upside, envision everything working out than to feel like we're being negative by spending time considering the downside. And the downside, let's face it, just not as much fun. And here's a big one, because we're fascinated by a lot of things and we can see potential in a lot of ideas, often we're spread very thin and this can lead back to distraction and failure to focus on the right things.

What do all these have to do with the Shiny Object Syndrome, and I'm going to abbreviate this, call it SOS, just so I don't have to keep saying it. Knowing what we know about ourselves, hopefully you'll see that while we're so susceptible to SOS and then how can we mitigate the problems that creates. Just on the same page, I always like to define what we're talking about in my mind anyway.

So, what is SOS? Generally it's things like, basically a detour from where our focus should be. Any new idea that's not part of our core business. Ideas not focused on improving the efficiency, increasing the revenue, increasing the growth of our current offering. Ideas that don't have a well thought out and defined return on investment if they're implemented. Skills that we don't need right now, sort of the opposite of that just in time learning. Ideas that are ancillary, that are unproven, unnecessary to grow our companies. And ideas that have no specific or measurable results, I.e, general advertising or having a nice office.

I think we can further divide the SOS into two areas. I mean, there's sort of the you inc, which basically means things that you do for your personal growth, for your knowledge and your skill set, so to speak. And then there's a group of things that are purely company related. Both of them if not managed well can really throw things off.

Let's talk about the personal ones first. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, this would include things that, anything that really improves your skills as a business person. It could be a new course on marketing, an industry knowledge seminar, a conference, whatever. Just about anything learning related, not that learning isn't critical to your business, and we'll talk about that more in a minute. And then there's, for lack of a better term, perks. This is includes things like, those extraneous things that your company is paying for, but in reality, they don't really do a whole lot for the bottom line. A gym membership, buying a fancy new office chair so you can feel important. I mean, you get it, these are things that have really nothing to do with and don't directly affect our company's core mission or your ability to be a better entrepreneur. So, that's sort of a personal type of thing.

What about more direct company side type of things like sales and marketing fulfillment? Some examples of SOS on the sales side might be buying a new lead organizing software that takes lots of time to implement, when in reality, the current one handles the core functions just fine and it's just a prettier upgrade, so to speak. It might be heavily discounting your service just to close a deal and jumping from sale to sale, focusing on the next big deal. It could be chasing down that customer, any customer who will pay and taking on the wrong clients.

What about marketing? Things like one time sponsorships for a convention or doing even the dreaded general advertising instead of direct response. Getting caught up in "branding," enhancing your website or your marketing materials or something with the right colors and all that. Even if something as just simple as marketing to, even to a too general or too large of an audience because it sounds cool that you can, hey, I'm marketing to 100,000 people or whatever, or a million people or 100 million people, because it sounds cool, you think, wow, it's got to have a lot of potential. But really it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Of course, then there's the unnecessary logistics like I was kind of hinting out before with the perks. Doing things like having an expensive and fancy office space, putting extravagant retreats on in the name of team-building or as simple as buying all new computers or some kind of technology that's just nice, it's cool, it's nice to have, but not going to change the bottom line, it's not going to move your company forward.

And then finally, I think if you look at something like automation overkill, in today's world in business, we have automation solutions for just about everything. Growing more and more every day. But just because we can automate things, it doesn't necessarily mean that we should, even if it's cool.

So now we know what it is and some examples of what SOS are, the question is why do we fall prey to it if it seems so simple. If we don't know why things happen, it's really hard to fix them. So I think it's, again, some of the same reasons that we're successful entrepreneurs. We get excited about new ideas, we get bored with the status quo, we see the potential in things. We want to grow quickly and are easy prey for marketers who are selling us the next best thing. A lot of us are in sales or come from a sales background. Let's face it, salespeople are the easiest people to sell. In fact, I just love being sold because I love listening to what they're saying and going, oh yeah, that was a great hook, and oh, great buying question, and seeing what they're going to do next. That's just me though.

We're also optimistic, and we see potential for growth in so many areas. We want to fix it even if it's not broke. I mean, it goes back to things like golf for instance. It's not a game that you can actually win, it's just a, can you get better? In sports, why we're so competitive a lot of us, we're constantly looking for ways to improve our company, constantly looking for ways to improve ourselves, our skills, our lifestyle. We like to move fast and don't like doing a lot of the implementation details, so to speak. I mean, it's a lot easier to focus on ideas and let's do this and do that and create a mess and let somebody else clean it up.

We're also generally into self-improvement and a lot of times branding. We have people that we respect in our industry and people who do training and that sort of thing. Our brands that we're loyal to, and basically that person puts out a new program for whatever. We just automatically buy it just because it's who they are. Or a brand puts out a new thing, it's like, well, I got to have that. And then finally, sometimes we fear that an opportunity will go away if we won't take advantage of it.

Again, these are all positive things in a lot of ways. However, we have to be careful in letting ourselves get lost in SOS. There's significant costs in terms of time and money that will really hamper our growth if we don't manage ourselves and our company when it comes to the Shiny Object Syndrome. There are several big reasons we want to avoid falling into the SOS trap. First, we want to be masters at our area of business, not dabblers. I forgotten how our saying goes, but it's something like, you don't want to be good at a lot of things because that makes you a master of nothing.

In today's world, general knowledge is of little value in the marketplace. I mean, that's why young people graduating from college can't even get a job because even if they've majored in something like finance, it's because generalized background knowledge and skill sets are not that valuable anymore, especially ones based upon what's in textbooks. What we really need is to become specialists and masters at certain areas of our business in our industry and in our lives in general. Mastery is highly paid and general knowledge is not. So, getting distracted by Shiny Object Syndrome and dabbling in a bunch of things is not only the wrong way to add value to the marketplace, but it's also very frustrating.

Have you ever looked back over a month or a week or even a day and realized that you worked a little on a bunch of things, but actually didn't really complete anything that moved your business forward? I mean, sometimes things take time and obviously not going to be done in a day, but if you break things down and focus only on a limited number of ideas, you're going to see a lot more progress. It's much better to complete two things than to have 10 that you're working on that never get done and never see the light of day.

So, Shiny Object Syndrome also slows you down. If you've got all these things you're working on and all kinds of extraneous good to know, but let's say not critical skillsets and ideas that are just not going to move things forward significantly today, it's going to slow you down. And these days, more than ever, speed is one of the big keys in business. If you can't adapt, change, and move your business forward quickly, you're getting left behind. I mean, gone are the days when we can get comfortable with what we're doing and just sit still making just very slow progress over time. It just doesn't work that way. And getting bogged down in SOS is one of the ways to put yourself out of business.

Also, think about Shiny Object Syndrome from a purely financial point of view. I mean, how much money have you spent on courses, seminars, books, and so on over the years that you never completed and a lot of cases, never even started. I mean, I'm totally guilty of this. The reason I did this episode because I realized I was falling into SOS a couple of weeks ago. I signed up for one of these marketing challenges, which is all the rage right now online. I also signed up for a course and also a two day seminar. And it was all because I respect the people who are doing it, I was fascinated with that area of the topic or whatever. And I thought I can do this stuff. And here I am two weeks later, which I didn't touch the challenge or the course, and I showed up for part of the two day seminar. I mean, that's huge big bucks down the drain, not to mention the time.

And it was really this epiphany that gave me the idea for this episode, it's an ongoing struggle for me personally. I've gotten better at it over the years, but even if you've been in business a long time like me, it's still easy to fall into Shiny Object Syndrome, even if you know better. I think that the last hard cost of getting caught up in SOS is an opportunity cost. Opportunity cost basically means if you have option A and it costs $100, what other options do you have and should you be spending that $100 on other options because you can't do both? So instead of putting our resources into things that we know we have a high likelihood of payoff in because we've done them before, we have some other evidence to back it up, we get Shiny Object Syndrome and start trying out new things for many of the things just for the boredom reasons we talked about.

This chasing new things takes time, money, and resources away from the "sure thing." One of my favorite movies of all time is the original Wall Street with Michael Douglas back in the 80s where his character, Gordon Gekko says something like, "I don't take risks, I bet on sure things." Of course he was talking about illegal stock trading, but you get the point. So if we know something already works or has a high likelihood of working, we better have a really good reason and well thought out reason why we should redirect resources to some other new unproven idea.

I know I've kind of beaten this topic up a little bit, but I think you have to figure out what you're doing and why we're doing it before we can actually focus on a solution. But let's talk about some specific actions that we can take to minimize and mitigate the SOS in our life. There are really four things in my mind that we need to do. I mean, first we have to identify when we're getting into Shiny Object Syndrome. We have to figure out how to master the boredom, so to speak. And we need to set up rules for action and questions to ask ourself in both categories of our personal type SOS ideas as well as the business specific ones.

Let's talk about step one, identifying it. This is of course, the first step. How do we even know that we're going off the rails and chasing an idea that may be in that SOS category? I think there are a lot of signs, but some of the ones that always stick out to me, you get excited very quickly about something, a new idea or whatever. It's cool or it's fun. It appears to "revolutionize your business," you always hear that one. It seems like the answer to your problems. It comes from a brand or a person that you have a lot of respect for. Some vendor contacts you instead of contacting them, sort of put the idea in your head. So it's things like that.

So let's say you've identified an issue that says, hey, this is likely an SOS type of thing, what do we do? Like a lot of things, it starts with an attitude or a mentality mindset, whatever you want to call it. You have to constantly remind yourself until it becomes a habit that repetitiveness is actually a good thing, and you can still enjoy it. I mean, look at the musicians, for instance. They're masters at repetitiveness. They write and play songs to play for people live. Some of them go on tour, they're doing the same exact set of songs every night for 250, 300 nights a year. I mean, can you imagine how boring that would be if they hadn't mastered boredom and how pathetic and experience it would be for the audience who can tell they're bored.

I went to a Def Leppard concert four or five years ago, this rock band from the 80s, if you don't remember. And it was amazing how good they were. Although they were promoting their latest album, let's face it, most of their hits were in the 80s. Joel Elliott, the lead singer got up there and he was singing his heart out like it was the first time he sang Hysteria. And not only was it over 100 degrees in the outdoor venue in Phoenix during the summer, but he'd been singing that song for 30 years on tour after tour. Talk about mastering boredom. You'd never know it that he'd sang that song thousands of times.

So the question is obviously, how do we model this? How do we get ourselves to do that? The money is in the mastery. Mastery comes from consistently focusing on something and not dabbling. And this is where SOS can kill us. I mean, we dabble in something instead of going all in. From a mindset standpoint, we need to embrace repetitiveness as much as we can. Sometimes it has a bad connotation to it, but it's actually good. As humans, we have both the need for security of knowing kind of what's going to happen or an idea as well as being surprised by stuff.

When it comes to business ideas, we need to discipline ourselves to be okay with and accept the fact that repetitiveness to a certain extent in our business is good. But how do we do this? It's like any area of your business, it's much easier for you to do if you accept repetitiveness in areas of your business that you're good at and that you like. I mean, on the other hand, if I tell you that you need to keep focused on staying on task with a part of your core business, but you hate it to start off with, it's unlikely you're going to stay focused for very long, you're going to look for some shiny object.

It's like we've talked about in other episodes, get rid of those things in your business that you don't like and aren't good at, and focus more on those areas that you enjoy and excel at. You're much less likely to fall into the SOS trap when you're doing things you actually enjoy or at least you don't mind. Doing stuff you hate is almost begging for SOS to come and play.

First we need to get our mind right and set ourselves up for success to avoid SOS. What else? If you look at the two categories, the sort of the you inc part as well as the more competent category, I kind of like to approach both of them the same general approach, but with a little tweak. First when it comes to me and my growth as a business owner, I have set up some specific rules and guidelines to help keep me on track. I try to get myself a limited number of courses, seminars, learning, etc, during a particular time. Monthly is what I've been trying to do recently. So if I know I can only handle one new learning course this month, I stop myself from going all in on other things.

I also have a set max budget for these things annually and do my best not to exceed it. That kind of helps keep me in control instead of buying and buying and buying, and trying to do too much stuff. Obviously given the story I told you about when I signed up for three things like a few weeks ago and used none of them, I don't totally have this down. I've been good at it in the past but really fell off the wheels on this one and not following what I knew to be the correct way to handle it. Fortunately, I was able to identify very quickly and thanks to knowing these general rules of actions, so to speak, which is why I'm sharing these with you.

So besides trying to have a general rule of thumb, limiting the number of learning type of things and a budget, I also try to evaluate each one by asking myself questions that sometimes you don't want to hear the answer to but it's the only way to actually evaluate them. I ask questions like how will this learning impact the growth of our business right now? Meaning is this completely relevant or is it just a cool subject that I would like to know a lot about that that I don't really need and it's not really going to move the company forward right now? And probably the most important thing, can I commit to the followup time that it takes to implement this thing?

If the course itself or whatever the seminar, whatever it is, if it's a day or two days or a week or whatever, that's not where the time is, the time is the execution afterwards. Do you have the time to do that and are you actually going to do it? What's the opportunity cost? What else could I use that money on? Or would it be more effective somewhere else, if I spent my time doing something else?

So, that's more on the personal development side, but what about the other areas of the business like sales, marketing, and fulfillment? I think you can use some of the basic ideas we talked about. You want to set up guidelines or rules and limit the number of ideas that we're even getting considered during any period of time, and putting any others down the road list. Once we have this set of ideas, we want to prioritize them in order of which ones have the biggest impact on the business the quickest. I mean, this is usually pretty easy to identify. If you can't identify when the payoff will be, that's usually a good sign that you shouldn't be doing it anytime soon and should put that on that future ideas list.

And then we want to evaluate these ideas more in depth before we implement any of them. Same thing, you ask questions again. What's the exact payoff we're doing this right now. What's the risk if this doesn't work? What's the opportunity cost? What else could we do with the time and the money this is going to cost? Are we considering this because let's face it, it's cool, it's fun, it's nifty. So hopefully that gives you some ideas on how to identify when you fall into SOS and how to help spending too much time there. As I said, I don't personally have this down 100% but it's one of those things that we can constantly work on.

So, takeaways from this episode, first of all, know that Shiny Object Syndrome is very natural and probably even more natural for entrepreneurs like ourselves. And what that probably means is that you're a good entrepreneur and you're most likely to succeed because you have those attributes. And it's okay to want to better yourself and your company. We just have to be smart about it. We have to figure out how to identify those Shiny Object Syndrome areas, discipline ourselves to ask questions every time we're considering it, and most importantly, have the courage to put it on the back burner if the payoff is not good and is not immediate and is not tangible right now. So, that's all I have for this episode and I will talk to you soon.

Thanks for listening today. I hope you learned something you can implement right away. I know your time is valuable and it's really an honor to serve you. Please subscribe and rate the show on your favorite podcast platform and give me your honest feedback. If you're interested in learning more about how to grow your B2B small business, please call my office at SalesDouble, which is 866-231-6776. Talk to you soon.