Simplifying things right down to the bare essentials is hard work. It is much easier to push on with that long report, long email, long draft speech, an overblown, ponderous, 40 page business plan than it is to write a one page executive summary. As a business owner it’s easier to push into related fields to add revenue than it is pushing through the pain and determination needed to dominate one niche.

Downtimes are a great opportunity to go back to basics to remind yourself why you are in business. It’s an opportunity to simplify, to block out the noise, and return to making money and creating an innovative, remarkable business that’s fun!

The key is where to start? – Answer –Positioning: Give yourself a Perspective session. Involve an outsider. Take the baggage, the padding out of your strategy. You need to figure out what you can be great at and then execute your strategy with passion and skilful delivery. Thermo Fisher Scientific refocused on scientific instruments and sold off non core activities that were not central to their new vision. EBay, News Corps and Sara Lee have all executed repositionings during this recession.

By defining your unique market you can now think about how to dominate it. Pruning your strategy allows you to execute everything else much faster.

You can now lay out clear policies on the type of innovation that makes sense, the acquisition targets that would fit well, the metrics you need to measure, the marketing strategies that deliver the maximum ROIs, the clear business results that you deliver for clients and therefore the sales narrative that articulates how you solve real problems. Even recruitment becomes slicker as you are able to articulate one compelling story to candidates. People love joining a cause with a future.

Simplicity works, and back to basics is key, allowing your team to rally around one cause. Specific operational examples to inspire:

37 Signals one of the most successful private software companies in the last decade have this to say: Be a curator. Stick to what is strictly essential. Pare things down so you are left with only the most important stuff. Then do it again. You can always add stuff later if you need to.

Intuit’s new R&D strategy delivers remarkable results, it’s a new approach using small (2 or more) nimble teams , bottom up rather than top down. This changed 27 years of thinking at the company.

Hubspot simplify social media with really smart dashboards that allow meaningful actions to happen.

i-Robot is at the leading edge of technology but even they demand a defined simple Value Proposition from all 3 levels of their R&D, Short Term Level 1, Medium term 12 months to 18 months Level 2 and Blue Sky Level 3.

Dashboards, once you know who you are, you can decide what to measure, see my previous blog post which highlights some tricks. Well known one page simple dashboard users include – Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft & Larry Ellison of Oracle. (Jack Welch was a big fan)

Checklists, – From aviation, construction to surgery, the power of relevant simple checklists can transform projects. Simple checklists deployed methodically can transform the operational performance of a business, from reports to R&D to Board Meetings.