“If you see me using tweezers, slap me”

By Rachel E. Formaro

This was something my brother-in-law, George, said at a recent cooking demonstration. George is a professional chef who owns and operates several restaurants. He is famous for his non-stop passion for food and cooking—even when he’s not in one of the restaurants, he’s judging a cook-off of some kind (most recently pho), researching historical recipes, or leading a cooking demonstration for us non-chefs.

The title quote was in reference to when he was plating a dish at a demo—elegant, but not precious. George followed up the remark with a quick “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” as he holds sincere respect for most styles of cooking (and plating). What struck me about what he said, though, is that he knows what he is best at and what he is known for, and he sticks to it.

In business (and in life) it can take years to figure out what you’re best at, and what you’ll be known for. I’ve seen many a start-up (including those of my own creation) try to be known for all things, the A-to-Z, and end up becoming disjointed and unfocused. If caught quickly enough, this be-all-things-to-all-people approach can be re-directed and narrowed down to the essence of what you offer, and to whom—whether you’re a business owner or employee.

Pay attention to those moments when you a) get told you’re a rock star or miracle worker, and b) you liked what you were doing when pulling off said miracles. Or follow these frequently offered tips for discovering what you’re best at (and actually want to do):

  • What are you doing when the time seems to fly by?
  • When do you feel “in the flow”?
  • What are you reading/doing when you’re off the clock?

The same can be said for focusing on tasks, especially for the founder of a start-up—you’re pretty much doing everything at the beginning. What I’ve learned from fellow entrepreneurs is to delegate the dreaded tasks as soon as it is economically viable to do so, then you can focus on what you do best and what will hit your revenue goals. Sometimes the best place to start with delegation for business owners is to find a really great accountant (unless you love accounting and excel at it, of course).

I recently “re-grammed” an image from James Victore on Instagram. It says “To do: 1. Stay small.” For many of us, “stay small” applies when you’ve found the intersection of what you’re really great at, and what you love to do (and that hopefully satisfies you financially as well—or if not, satisfies in some other way of personal fulfillment). Sometimes going beyond that can lead to all kinds of chaos (from rushing into a less-than-optimal business relationship, to becoming so unfocused you’re not sure what to do next, and everything in between).

Once we’ve found that intersection, perhaps a new rule should be “friends don’t let friends pick up the metaphorical tweezers” (no slap required, thank you!).