The value of focus

Guest post by Charlie Tavner, who is currently non-executive chairman of Me_tail and an executive director at Magma Global, an Oil and Gas technology business. He has a strong background in venture capital and engineering and has led several energy and machine vision investments. Charlie joined the Me_tail board in 2008 but first started working with the founders as far back as university in Cambridge

One of the hardest questions to answer in a fast growing business is how much time to devote to the ‘Plan B’. To be caught with no alternative in business is bordering on the negligent. But it is an inescapable truth that ‘Plan Bs’ consume time, sap energy and defocus the management team. One of Me_tail’s great strengths has been its ability to explore alternatives but demonstrate single minded focus in delivering ‘Plan A’.

As an engineer I have always been attracted to the notion of sustaining parallel alternatives to every problem. This way the logic runs, you are never caught out. But at Me_tail and other ventures I am involved in I have started to see an alternative view of the world. This is the Value of Focus. By picking a path and committing absolutely the team becomes far more likely to deliver. It’s like the old climbing technique of getting rid of the ropes if you’re failing to do the crux of the climb. Nothing motivates like the absence of alternatives!

I am not advocating no contingency but I am constantly mindful that once you’ve picked a path, the damage of sustaining alternatives is far worse than the immediately visible commitments of time and money. Tom and I constantly battle with whether we need ‘Plan Bs’. What we’ve found is sometimes, just sometimes, it really helps to throw away the ropes!

(Climbing legend Chris Sharma from the documentary film ‘King Lines’, which includes in the soundtrack a tune by Bussetti, the band previously managed by our CEO, Tom)

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