One of the hardest disciplines to master as a business owner is focus.
In fact, it’s the whole reason why we started SpeakerFlow and our coaching program.
Before anyone can make use of fancy strategies and business systems, before they could start selling and marketing, before they could build a team and get out of the weeds, they need focus and clarity about the direction they’re heading.
As a visionary, lack of clarity is your kryptonite.
And today, we’ve brought in the master of focus. A legend, really – Mark LeBlanc.
Mark LeBlanc, CSP runs a speaking business in Minneapolis. He conducts presentations on how to create extreme focus and put more money in your pocket as a business owner. As a business coach, he has clocked over 20,000 coaching hours on how to start and grow a successful business. In fact, he is the author of six books, including his first book, Growing Your Business! As a result of his work, people often share they are more focused daily, generate undeniable momentum and do more of the good work they are called and compelled to do. On a personal note, when not speaking or coaching – he often goes on a short, five hundred mile walk across Spain. His next walk is in 2023.
Let’s dive in!
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✅ Learn more about Mark and his book, Growing Your Business: https://growingyourbusiness.com
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Taylorr: Welcome to another episode of technically speaking. We’re your hosts, Taylorr and Austin and today we are talking about focus. Focus is probably one of the hardest disciplines to master as a business owner and before any one of us can start making use of fancy business strategies or business systems or things claiming that we can get to the next level, we first need complete focus and clarity about where we’re heading. And as we’re working, we need to stay laser-focused on that vision on the core idea of our business, and we need to make decisions based on that focus. For so many of us, we lose sight of that focus and that’s our kryptonite, and that’s why we hear people constantly saying we’re spinning our wheels. In fact, it’s the primary reason why Speaker Flow got started in the first place. The master of focus and using it to grow your business is Mark LeBlanc.
Mark is a CSP and runs a speaking business out of Minneapolis, and he has done presentations worldwide talking about how you can use extreme focus to grow your business. It’s crazy as mark has also logged over 20,000 coaching hours in his achiever’s circle, and he’s the author of six books, including his first book, Grow Your Business. As a result of his work, people share that they’re more focused daily, create undeniable momentum in their business, and are feeling more called and compelled to do what they do best. On a personal note, when not speaking or coaching, Mark often goes on a short 500 mile walk across Spain and his next one is slated for 2023. As always, we hope you enjoy this episode, stick around till the end for some awesome resources and let’s dive in. Mark, wow. It is a pleasure to have you on the show today. Welcome.
Mark: Thank you. Thank you, Taylorr.
Taylorr: Yeah, no problem. It’s just been I feel like a long time in the making. I’ve known you for a little while now and kind of a legend in the space.
Mark: Oh, that’s very kind of you. I think the last time we had a chance to be together was before COVID even started.
Taylorr: It’s almost wild to think we lived through that experience and it’s still kind of unfolding.
Mark: A lot has changed for sure.
Taylorr: Yeah, definitely. Mark, we’re very purposeful in our planning of these episodes, and one of my favourite things about you is you tackle this idea of like growing your business from this focus kind of angle. How did you land on that kind of idea? When did you realize like focus was such a problem for so many business owners and what did you experience yourself to get you there?
Mark: Well, it’s kind of funny, but almost everything I teach coach train speak about right about share about really came about as my own problems and challenges. And so, I became a study in focused. I became a study in how to attract more prospects. I became a study in how to stimulate more referrals, I guess, to answer your question, I was a hot mess around focus myself for so many years. And pretty soon you get tired of being unfocused and riding the roller coaster of highs and lows that… well, one of the things that I learned, I guess gradually over time, one is if I’m struggling with it, other professionals are probably struggling with it. And two, I have to take myself out of the equation. And what I mean by that is I needed to create forms, frames, formulas, so that I eliminated the grey area in my business model and my life. And so many professionals sort of allow themselves to have this grey area in their business, and boy left to our own devices, the more grey area you that you have, or the lack of clarity that you have about your business and your efforts and where you want to go, the more unfocused you will be.
Austin: Man, isn’t that the truth. It’s tough too, for somebody that’s running a business as, quote unquote solopreneur, somebody that doesn’t have an entire team around them. I find that if you do have a team, it can be, I don’t know, maybe easier isn’t the right word, but simpler to be able to achieve that focus since the nature of being part of a team is that everybody has to be sort of rallied behind the same direction, at least if progress is going to be made. But if you’re running your own business by yourself and there’s not somebody else there to be bouncing ideas off of and getting in alignment with, then it’s real easy to just not even be aware of that and for that grey area to sort of creep up. There’s nobody to keep you in check
Mark: It creeps up and then common challenge is we get caught up in what we should do or what others think that we should do. We all have well-intentioned friends, colleagues, our inner circle, I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody said to me, you know, mark, you’re a pretty sharp guy, You know what you should do. And when we are unfocused, then all of a sudden we keep hearing this and it’s like, we go off path And the more focused you are, the easier everything becomes. And what I often share is you tend to get what you focus on and focus is nothing more than making decisions, having the discipline to see them through.
Taylorr: Oh, wow.
Austin: What was that?
Taylorr: The first golden nugget. We’re not even five minutes into this Mark. Decisions and the discipline to see them through.
Mark: Every once in a while I say something good.
Taylorr: Well, I’m glad.
Mark: So stay alert.
Taylorr: It’s a good format for saying good thing so thanks for the nugget there. We’re going to really talk about discipline in a bit, I’m sure. I’m so glad you dropped that. And I actually have a question for you on the topic of focus, because what we find with our coaching clients is that people can feel like they have focus. I’ll give you an example from my life even, what’s that phrase that you can’t read the label if you’re inside the bottle. It’s almost hard to identify when you’re not focused, because I think a lot of speakers, coaches, consultants, solo business owners, they’re creatives, they’re visionaries, we get excited about the things that we’re working on and that excitement can, at least for me create this false illusion that I am focused on the right direction. How did you identify within yourself that you didn’t have focus? And do you ever have to check yourself on the focus that you have and how do you become aware that you might not be working on the right things?
Mark: Well, think about focus as a degree of focus. If you had met me 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, or 10 years ago, or maybe you heard about me 10 or 15 or 20 years ago, you might have heard something like, oh yeah, Mark is a little bit unique. He’s kind of an interesting guy. Seems pretty sharp, but man is he focused. But I think that 20 years ago, I might’ve been 68% focused and 15 years ago, maybe 80% focused and 10 years ago, maybe 91% focus. Constantly trying to close that grey area in my business, the challenge is staying focused. It’s easy to make some decisions, in fact, I was looking at something today. We’ve got some proprietary tools that we use and help to keep us on track from a numbers perspective or a focus perspective. And I was reviewing some things and I thought, man, a year ago, I said, I wanted to do more of this, but the last 12 month rolling period, I’m like, I really didn’t achieve that. I’ve had a great 12 month rolling period, by the way, I always look at a 12 month rolling period, never year to date.
Mark: So one thing I would suggest to people is throw away the concept of the calendar year and year to date efforts. In fact, what you’ll see now in hear now as we approach the holidays is people will say, well I’ve had a good year or not. I’ve had a great year or I’ve had a terrible year. Wasn’t the way that I wanted it to go and so I’m going to take the rest of this year, kind of to get ready for 2022. Well, that’s just stupid.
Mark: And the reason I say that, I guess I could soften it by saying it’s silly or it’s short-sighted. But even when we think about focus, I want people to think about three train tracks in their business. One track is a booking track, next to that is a delivery track, and the third track is your money track. Well, it’s true that for some of us professionals maybe the delivery track might slow down a little bit over the holidays, but I get that. But the business development track never slows down. Unless you run a dairy queen that closes for six months and you have a seasonal business, you need to be in gear with your business development tracks. I get excited about November and December, and my schedules by delivery track is pretty full, but we’re just entering crunch time with new prospects, with renewals of existing agreements, so part of focus is keeping your eye on the business development track, even if your delivery track slows down.
And it reminds me, I was very young in high school when one of my first mentors did own a dairy queen and he owned one of the most successful dairy queens in the entire system for the category of location he was in. And I learned from him, he said to me, Mark, I’m open from March 15th through October 15th or whatever that period was. And he said something to me I never forgot. He said, but I market myself all year round. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, I have my billboards up 12 months a year, I have my radio spots playing 12 months a year. I said, well, why would you not want to save that money for four months?
And he said, because when I opened on March 15th, I have a line down the block, even in a blizzard. They want their blizzard in a blizzard. But I never forgot and I think that was the seed of making sure that you are in gear constantly even if it’s slower. You either move at the speed of a hare, the speed of a turtle or the speed of a snail, but you never stop that track of business development. That’s really mindset shift, number one, in terms of focus. But most professionals, when you ask them how they are, they will go right to their delivery track.
Mark: Oh, really busy. I’m full. I’m not full. I’ve got nothing on the calendar over the holidays. I might as well work on my business than in mine… I understand the concept, but I’m working on my business and I’m working in my business every 30 freaking days.
Taylorr: Everyday, yeah. Wow.
Austin: That totally resonates with me.
Austin: I kind of want to dig into one of these things that you’re talking about here with this idea of, for sure. staying in gear 12 months out of the year and looking at a 12 month rolling period. I think that there’s some benefit and maybe I’m looking at this incorrectly, so maybe you can correct me if so, but there’s some benefit to taking some time at the end of the year to unpack what’s happened. And it might just be arbitrary, it doesn’t really matter when we do it, but a cyclical way for us to circle back and look at the business and intentionally see what was accomplished, what was missed, what we’re planning for in the future. How does goal and objective planning fit into your model of focus? when does that happen and how do we adjust when things change, but more importantly, how do we commit to a time period of focusing on something so that we can actually do our best to see it through?
Mark: Sure. Austin, the first thing I want to say is you’re never wrong.
Austin: Okay. That makes me feel good.
Mark: I don’t want to make you wrong or feel bad, or people have to find their own way, they’ve got to develop their philosophy, and they have to find their approach. And I believe that the secret to our success is in the phrase every 30 days, and also to be looking at course corrections in real time, every 30 days. If you stop and think about this, if we throw away the concept of the calendar year, we are essentially then setting aside this idea of the annual goal. Not that you shouldn’t have an annual goal, but I would rather refer to it as a 12 month rolling period goal. If you create a model of a perfect month and you create a path and a plan to be at, or near that model month every 30 days, you’re much more likely to achieve whatever you wanted for an annual goal.
Now, typically, and this is a very simple concept to hear and take in, but it’s a very challenging one to put into practice. We all feel better on January 1st, we all tend to feel better often around labour day. Those are the two most natural moments of renewal in the course of a year. We sort of reset, we recommit to what we want, the summer’s over, or the previous year is over and it did or did not go the way that I wanted it to go but by God, we come to January 1st and we’re grateful, the holidays are over and our family is gone and we know how long new year’s resolutions tend to last. So, my question for listeners is, imagine if you could feel good, that same sense of spirit and renewal that you feel on January 1st, that you feel it on the first of every month.
That’s why I’m a huge champion of the rolling 12 month period, because we may look at our numbers in the middle of January for the previous year and compare those to the year before. Well, every 30 days, my assistant Kylie and I look at our 12 month rolling numbers and a comparative period from the same 12 month rolling period the year before. Every 30 days we’re evaluating the 24 months of numbers and that helps us make these course corrections in real time as to where we’re doing well, where we’re not where we need to shine a light on an area of a business model, where have we gotten maybe a little bit lazy or complacent or forgetful. And then to your point, though, yes, we should have an annual retreat. I host a weekend retreat called the Achiever Circle. I have many professionals who use that as their annual sort of reset and refreshing their goals.
We do five of those a year, and then we do our annual Whatever It Takes conference. That’s for a select group of my clients who have been working with me typically for 10 to 20 years. I do want people to carve out a long weekend or to hang out with their mastermind group. I think what happens is people do that and then they wait a year to do their review. It’s like we can do these medium and micro reviews Every 30 days, we can reset our counters to zero every 30 days just like we reset our counters to zero on January 1st of every year. That just makes so much sense, but it’s so ingrained in us to think about the annual goal and the calendar year, that it’s an easy trap to keep falling back into. What I often discourage people from doing or what I encourage them to do is don’t have a retreat by yourself.
Get three, four of your trusted colleagues or get your mastermind group together for a long weekend if it’s an annual thing, but be open to making decisions in real time and course corrections along the way. I’m sure Austin and Taylorr, you blinked and 12 months later, you woke up and thought, you know, I never even took us step towards that one. That’s just human nature. Focus is something that we need to be in touch with not only once a year, but every 90 days, every 30 days and every 24 hours so that we don’t go off on tangents disguised as opportunities. Even though I might have some grey area in my business and I’m still sharpening my focus day in, day out, quarter in, quarter out, year in, year out, it’s easy for me to go off on a tangent or should, everybody tells me I should do this. Well, maybe they’re smarter than I am. Maybe they’re seeing something that I’m not seeing. I think the difference with me is that I’ve been such a student of focus and extreme focus that if I go off on a tangent, it doesn’t take me long to wake up and all of a sudden it’s like, ah, that’s a tangent disguised as an opportunity. I often get back to centre quicker than most. Does that make sense?
Austin: I love that. Well, the thing is, is that you’ve built systems around yourself to keep you in check. We have to be made aware of these tangents that we can possibly go down and it sounds to me like you’ve just given yourself a framework of sorts to make sure that you catch yourself early if that happens, am I hearing that right?
Mark: That’s exactly right. And people need to trust their intuition and I’ll give you a short example. People have often said to me, Mark, you have more content than God, you should be blogging. Blogging is a great strategy, you can write a blog every week and will help you with your SEO rankings whether people read it or not, blah, blah, blah. You should be blogging and sharing your content through a blog. I don’t want a blog. For me, that’s a should. If people want to blog, they should blog. If people want to tweet, they should tweet, but they should not tweet if they feel like they should tweet. You see the difference? Next week, I’m getting ready for my annual tweet and people can hardly wait for it because it only happens once a year.
Now contrast that with, I implement a mix of strategies every 30 days, but here’s the rub. I only choose the marketing strategies that I want to implement. In fact, even more, that I love to implement. And it’s the synergy of my strategies that has filled my inbox with incoming leads. It’s the synergy of the strategies I love to implement that fill my pipeline, that get my phone to ring, that stimulate more referrals for me. So often I hear people say, well, so-and-so said I should do this, what do you think? It’s like, well, do you think you should do it? I really don’t want to do it, but I keep hearing I should do it. Well, kill it and let’s, re-examine how you want to market yourself and implement the strategies that you love to implement, because you’re much more likely to do those than you are to do a couple of strategies that you feel you should do.
Taylorr: Nice. I love this topic. It’s simplifies how we can prioritize what’s important to us and it makes it dead simple because it’s preferential at that point. We can analyse what we’re good at, where our strengths are and put our effort into that direction. That’s a perfect analogy so thank you for breaking that down. One thing that popped up though, as you were kind of explaining this, and as we’ve been talking about focus, I find often because we get so much input, we think, oh, we should do this, somebody else is doing that. We almost have to get good at saying no to things. Have you found yourself having to learn that ability to say no to external inputs? And do you have recommendations for people who might have a hard time saying no, either the things internally that they might be hearing they should be doing or external people who think, oh, we should partner. We should create this thing together. We should do X, Y, and Z. How does saying no factor into all of this?
Mark: Well, the only person that I have ever come across that says no well, is Warren Buffet,
Taylorr: Warren Buffet.
Mark: And Warren Buffett, one of his pearls of wisdom, and I may not get this exactly right but you’ll understand the essence. Warren Buffet suggests that successful people learn how to say no. Really successful people learn how to say no, almost all the time. Because as you become more successful, there are more demands on your time, there are more favours, there are more groups that want you to donate money, for example, because they put you on a pedestal. Can you imagine how many groups, organizations, corporations that are connected to him that would love for him to come and speak that would love for… he’s mastered the art of saying no. But we can be criticized. I’ve taken a lot of bullets for not following the crowd and I don’t position myself as a contrarian, I just don’t fit in certain circles. I don’t do my business the way a lot of people do their business.
And I read some things online and I just sort of shutter a little bit. And even people, I like, it’s like, I want to pick up the phone and say, are you kidding me? Get focused for God’s sake, stop fooling around on Facebook because Facebook has become one of the easy defaults that sucks up, or just social media in general. You really need to think through what will serve you best and also some very quick questions that people need to answer from a focus perspective is, of your profit centres, what is your primary profit centre? What is your secondary profit centre? I have five profit centres. I have a coaching profit centre, I have a paid speaking profit centre, I have a speaking profit centre events that I stage myself, I have a products profit centre, and I have a licensing profit centre.
Most professionals have three to five profit centres. But if every day you wake up and it’s like, well, what profit centres should I focus on today? Which one is begging for my attention? You will ride the roller coaster of ups and downs. I have a primary and a secondary. You’ll be more focused. If you put the lion’s share of your effort against your primary profit centre. If you want to be extremely focused, create what I refer to as your signature sale, your flagship presentation or program. If you go to your favourite restaurant, whether it’s a diner, a dive, a drive in, most of the time, they have one item, sometimes two but one item on their menu that is set aside from everything else. They’ve got the best chilli, they’ve got the best hamburger in town, they’ve got the best key lime pie. My favourite example is Murray’s in downtown Minneapolis. They built their brand on their silver butterknife steak for over 75 years. If you’re a beef eater, it’s arguably one of the best pieces of beef you’ll ever put in your mouth.
Taylorr: I’m salivating right now.
Austin: I know me too. I’m hungry now. Dang it. [Cross-talk 27:53]
Taylorr: I’m going to have to go to Murray’s.
Mark: I don’t order it every time, they have nine different stakes, I have touched them all. But for special occasions and when people come into town, Austin, when you come to Minneapolis, I’ll take you out for a silver butterknife steak. We’ll get Taylorr up here and I will take you there, it will be my treat.
Austin: Okay. I will take you up on that.
Mark: But they built their brand on their silver butterknife steak. It’s the home of the silver butterknife steak. They’ve won awards on the silver butterknife steak. They’re one of the restaurants that just does everything right. But they shine a big bright spotlight on that silver butter knife steak. My question to professionals is often what is your silver butterknife steak? And imagine if you just stopped and took the next 90 days and put 80% of your marketing muscle and might and messaging around the one thing you specifically want to sell more of. It is my contention that if you focus on a primary profit centre and identifying a signature sale or flagship offering, you’ll sell more of everything else you want by focusing on one.
Taylorr: Oh man, this is the key takeaway for this episode. Everybody listening, if you don’t feel like you have a main offer right now, a main profit centre that you can go and market and focus on in the next 90 days solve that problem and you will have the most productive 90 days of your life if you put your effort in there. In fact, we were just talking about, I think our last episode we recorded last week’s episode, Sally Z came on and about why it’s important to have a signature talk if you’re going to wrap your business model around speaking, so you can have laser focus on that main offering and then segue that into further engagements if you want. This is the pathway you guys, Mark, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all these wonderful insights. As you know, we’re all about creating value for our audience, If someone wants to learn more about your achiever circles or what you’re up to in the world where do they go to learn more?
Mark: Well, incidentally, my signature dish is our business development and retreat called The Achiever’s Circle. I created it 21 years ago and this coming weekend I will do, weekend number 157.
Mark: It is the most fun and the most intense work that I do for up to 12 independent or practice professionals. But the best place to reach me is really my site growingyourbusiness.com. In fact, currently you can view a 45 minute speech titled How to Have Your Best Year Ever. So Austin, if you’re going to take a little time here before the end of the year, make a note to watch that 45 minute speech, and it will bring a little bit about focus. I talk about the synergy of marketing strategies, and would be a great what I call high value activity here as you come into the holidays.
Austin: Love that. Done.
Taylorr: Thank you so much for sharing all those resources Mark, we’ll make sure the links are in the show notes as always. And hey, if you liked this episode, don’t forget to rate it like it, subscribe to it. If you want more awesome resources like this, go to speakerflow.com/resources. Thank you so much for chiming in, I just wanted to take a second to thank our sponsor Auxbus. Auxbus is the all in one suite of tools you need to run your podcast and it’s actually what we run here at Speaker Flow for Technically Speaking. It makes planning, podcasts simple, it makes recording podcasts simple, it even makes publishing podcasts to the masses simple and quite honestly, Technically Speaking, wouldn’t be up as soon as it is without Auxbus. Thank you so much Auxbus. And if you are interested in checking Auxbus out, whether you’re starting a podcast or you have one currently get our special offer auxbus.com/speakerflow, or click the link below in our show notes.