For Small Businesses, Tunnel Vision Can Be A Danger

tunnel with graffiti
Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s easy, as a small business, to lock on to one thing. While that in and of itself isn’t a bad idea, the tendency to zero in on the one roadblock in a business’s way can be.

I really like this quote from the superb Who’s The Boss blog at the New York Times, talking about that very tendency in small business owners the world over:

First of all, Einstein had it wrong. Not his theory of relativity. That seems to be holding up quite well (not that I would know). But he’s also the guy who said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Too often, I think that’s really the definition of small business.

What exactly does this mean? Well, we’re not talking about the repetition of things that work, because being flighty and flitting from project to project is no way to build sustained success. What we’re talking about is being the bird that continually flies into the same pane of glass. You’ll break yourself on it before you break it, and yet you keep coming back.

As an example, let’s say your company sells sandwiches. You are successful in most areas of your business, but buffalo chicken wraps are poor sellers. Rather than continue to grow what’s actually working for you, you neglect those segments of your business because it drives you absolutely insane that you cannot sell buffalo chicken. Your sales in that area increase only incrementally, to the detriment of roast beef on rye, chicken salad and even the rarefied Italian.

That kind of laser-like focus is traditionally held up as something to admire, but that’s only true if you’re concentrating on the things that are successful, or at least the things that are within your control. The key is to not fall into the trap of thinking that you can transform a flagging product through sheer force of will. You’re better off coming around to it when you can and focusing on those core products, marketing efforts or hiring practices that have brought you success before.

If you’re going to have tunnel vision, in other words, watch out for oncoming trucks.

Photo credit to jamesbget at

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