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When a cow chases you…

There’s much you need to know to make your dreams come true, but as an entrepreneur one of the most important, and perhaps difficult, is this: Focus.Learning, or rather training yourself, to focus on one project, one goal, one dream at a time is key to your ultimate success.

One of the great things about entrepreneurs is a tremendous ability to come up with new things, almost constantly! But you have to learn to control this tendency. You have to focus.

I learned this one year at a seminar I attended. I spent the first day telling everybody, when they asked, that I was in the pet supplies business. By the end of the next day, I realized: I’m not in the pet supplies business. I’m in the clay business.

The real business

You see, I started out with a clay-based product that addressed the needs of a particular animal — the house cat. And from there, all the good ideas I started having related to my audience — pets and pet lovers. I was making catnip; I’d bought a birdseed company. I had a pet shop franchise I was trying to develop. I had some birdseed bells. And I was prepared to launch a pet food. Suddenly I realized: Whoa. Wait a minute. Let’s focus here. What am I really good at? Where do my roots come from? And the answer to that was clay. I was a miner really.

So, I started thinking about what else I could do with clay, and how I could make my product, Kitty Litter, even better. I went home from that seminar and I sold the pet-shop franchise, I sold the catnip toys. I got out of it all. I concentrated on cat-box filler.

By telling you to focus, what I mean is this: Do what you do best. Stop trying to be everything and do everything. Sure you have a lot of good ideas, and it’s fun to come up with something new every week. But at some point, you have to pick one and run with it. Really get into it. Focus on that and see where it can take you.

That leads me to General Rule No. 12. Over my career, I’ve added to a list of General Rules, things I’ve learned about making it as an entrepreneur in America. And General Rule No. 12 is this: Even a cow will chase you if you run.

Stand Your Ground

When I was growing my Kitty Litter business, some big players were entering the market, and we had a big decision to make. One of my managers told me that he didn’t think we had the resources to take on these big competitors and maybe now was the time to sell our business.

Well, I thought back to my days on the farm when my Grandpa Huber told me, “Eddie, if a cow ever starts to run at you, stand your ground, or better yet, flap your arms and run at the cow.”

I got to use this advice when I was out helping herd the cattle for the yearly branding. One cow started running toward me, and I stood petrified as this 700-pound monster came charging at me. So I started flapping my arms and hooting and hollering, and she kept coming. So I upped the ante and started to run at the cow.

Amazingly, she stopped short, stared at me for a moment, and then turned tail and trotted off. It was a powerful lesson and one that I reflected upon as I considered my manager’s opinion. “I don’t think we will be selling out just yet,” I said. “If we sell, it will be on our terms, not because we ran when they chased us.” And with that we began work on one of our most successful marketing campaigns of the company’s history.

This column is one in a series that will explore the thoughts, ideas and unadorned advice of an entrepreneur who made it, Edward Lowe. When he “brought the cat indoors” with a revolutionary cat-box filler, Kitty Litter, he created an industry that changed the lives of millions of cat lovers, not to mention cats. During his life, Ed Lowe used “plain talk” to speak about the bottom line from the bottom of his heart. We believe these writings, revised and updated after his death, offer  value for both your business and personal life.

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