When I was an early business owner, I often had trouble focusing. I was supposed to be giving 100% of my attention to running the moving company. But inevitably, other interesting things would grab my attention and I’d get inspired to start chasing those—like a dog who just saw a squirrel run by!
Fortunately, I had a great business mentor named Bill Perry who gave me valuable insight along my journey as a business owner. He told me to focus on the “river of cash.” As I started picturing a literal river of dollar bills, he quickly explained that the river of cash is a figurative way to describe the thing that’s bringing in money—for me, it was the moving company.
His advice to focus on the river of cash really helped me pull in the reins on all the other ideas that were starting to distract me. I had been tempted to do what a lot of entrepreneurs try at some point: branching out into different things the minute the company is doing well enough to need less attention. There’s that tendency to think “What else can I do?” as soon as you have some time to consider other things that strike your interest. But these distractions have the potential to mess up the flow of the river of cash as your attention is elsewhere.
I think this concept is hard for entrepreneurs because they like diversity, change, and just trying new things. But I read somewhere that your mind is like a light. You can shine that light over a whole room and brighten it with a nice, soft glow…or you can laser focus that light until it’s so intense that it can actually cut through steel.
Which one sounds more effective? Probably the one that cuts through steel, right? So when it comes to running your business, try to keep that laser focus on what brings you money, and make sure other things don’t take you away from the river of cash. Otherwise, the river will dry up!
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you can’t ever make changes to your business. Some companies find that switching focus—like changing up the products or services they offer—is for the best. For example, do you remember when Kimberly-Clark shut down its paper mills to turn its focus from just paper to consumer goods like diapers and tissues? The company made some changes, but always kept the focus on its river of cash, and that’s why it’s still around and doing well.
You may be able to do the same, as long as you make sure you’ve thought it through and it’s a concept that will bring in more money, not just an idea you’re pushing through on a whim. As long as you focus on the river of cash today, you may eventually be in a position to fund other ideas you want to do in the future. But for now, focus on keeping that river of cash flowing!