I always thought the best advice for new business was to focus on finding a need and filling it. Once you've identified a need, the way you fill that need can change. The important thing is to remember it's filling the need that is important, not the specific product or service (which can change in order to better fill that need).
I owned a business for 10 years, and that advice helped keep everything in focus. It also implies keeping communication open with customers -- you have to keep tabs on whether that need is changing and whether your product or service is continuing to fill the need.
Sometimes entreprenuers and engineers get so focused on the perceived need and filling that perceived need that they are too close to the problem or solution and can't adapt when things change. It's being able to take a deep breadth and reevaluate the solution with a fresh eye that's often the greatest challenge to saying focused on the "donut" and not getting caught up in the "hole."
There are a lot of familial saying that get passed down. ("This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you" is one that comes to mind.) Seriously, though, focus for an entrepreneur is perhaps even more important than technological competence. I think that's why so many older engineers end up either perplexed or slightly bitter. They've spent their whole careers being the best engineers they can be, and then they don't understand why the schmoozers have done better, economically speaking.
I've not heard of donutss vs donut holes. I've heard it referred to as chasin' rabbits. When the focus goes from solving one real problem to chasin' all them rabbits and trying to solve the worlds problems.
It's time like these managers need to bring the group back to the original problem.
I've done quite a bit of working with young people and this is a great skill to pass on to them. Stay focused and do one thing at a time. When we're done with that problem we'll go on to the next.
The biggest example I can think of losing sight of the donut was the big dot com implosion. All of those internet companies had a viable product when they started. As time went on, the focus changed to turning IPO's into gobs of cash. The original product got lost in the shuffle.
Rod is indeed correct, in many cases the investor starts to run the show, and the direction changes from providing a solution to a problem to maximizing the short term profit, usually at the expense of everything else. Unfortunately the obvious solutions are unworkable, because many startup companies do need the investment capital of those who are only in it for the money. Perhaps it would help to only partner with investors who were interested in long term growth, instead of maximizing each months profits.
But finding investors like that is probably quite a challenge.
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