I enjoy doing a lot of things. From simply being a businessman, teaching web and media, doing consulting work, developing websites for clients to being a great guy and helping people with their web and tech related problems.

What I’ve found, would you believe it, is that it really is time to focus. This is no business driven decision. This is a health decision. You see, there comes a time when you have to realize that despite all of these things without a problem being doable in the amount of time you are given each day, each comes with its own sets of accountability and pressure.

The problem is that as this pressure on you builds up, it quickly becomes too much, as each area explodes at, interestingly enough, the very same time.

There is a rule as much in business as in life known as the 80/20 rule. 80% of the results comes from 20% of the efforts. Realizing that this holds true in most situations, you also realize when it is time to focus.

Unfortunately, giving up things you love doing is not an easy task. The jury is still out on exactly how I am going to tackle this, but trust me, there is a limit to how much you want to do, long term.

One of the things you will constantly run into as a small business owner is “firsts”—things you do for the first time. Even after you have been in business for a while, there are always—and good thing too—new things that you have to tackle that you haven’t come across before.

This is not just about having to send quotes on things you have never done before. It is about networking with confidence in new situations where you feel out of place, it is about tackling that big issue that you really have no idea what to do about and it is always about showing confidence when you haven’t got any.

The Houses of Parliament

Let me tell you a personal story about my most memorable and so far most-frightening “first”.

A couple of years ago I was invited by David Roth at The Store at WPP to attend a seminar on doing business in China in London. Nothing unusual about that. What was special was that the seminar was preceded by a lunch mingle session at the Houses of Parliament.

So there I was. Right in the Houses of Parliament amidst senior executives at some of the biggest advertising agencies in the world and members of the house of lords. Half the age of everyone else and running my own business. Needless to say, I was frightened before.

I buckled up the courage and went. Obviously you just cannot pass on an invitation to the Houses of Parliament. Sure, it was a little uncomfortable. But you bet I was happy afterwards. This year I was invited back again for the second time and it was much easier and I was able to be there with much greater courage. Next year? I’m already looking forward to it.

The moral of my story is that success in part can be determined at how well we handle the firsts. You don’t need to do things perfectly the first time, but you can’t shy away from them. I guarantee you, being able to do something and appearing confident even when you are not is a great skill, one that will not let you down.

One of many things that I would like to start doing more is taking up board positions. I think it is inevitable in one’s business career that you start to feel that you have more valuable strategic insight to give, than simply being a producer.

Apart from doing more consulting work—which is one way of doing more strategy oriented work—serving as a board member of companies or organizations is something that I believe not only would be a fun experience, but something that both I and the organization could benefit greatly from.

It isn’t something that I take lightly. It is a serious obligation, but one that I have been actively looking to get doing more in the future. Should anyone find this post and think “Hey, he’d be awesome for us”, then you know I’m always looking. But for both your sake and mine, I’m very picky. It needs to be a right fit because I do want to focus my time on where I can actually make a difference. So, let’s see where I am in a year. If all goes to plan, on more boards.

There comes a time when you are up against a limit, especially in a serviced based business, where you can’t grow unless you expand your business beyond yourself. In my case, I’ve hit that stage—in fairness probably quite a while ago.

Where others are perfectly happy about running their small business, or one person consultancy, I have always had far bigger plans. I have a vision to grow my companies into something much larger, because I believe we provide something that others really do not.

This is why my businesses have been global from the start, and it is also why I am now more than ever forced to make an active expansion decision. It involves finding staff.

Finding staff is risky. Hiring someone costs a lot of money, and you better be sure you have the business to pay for it, or they money to sit it out while you wait. This is a financial risk that I simply cannot afford to take at this moment in my life, for various reasons. In just running the business, I constantly run a personal financial risk—all small business owners do. It would seem foolish to risk a thriving business, simply to grow in size, especially at this time in life.

The other option is to grow by consultants. Unfortunately finding talented freelancers is tricky. As a conscious manager, I am actively trying to find people that are better than me. People that are experts in areas where I am not. Finding great people is hard, because great people are busy. That’s what characterizes finding a great freelancer—they are otherwise engaged.

I still believe in growing by freelancers and consultants and I am always actively on the lookout for great people to involve in projects, because that means that we can be even better and deliver even greater results. I also firmly believe that growing in this way sets us up for further expansion later, and the possibility of long-term bringing these people on board as full time staff, as more business comes in. As far as trade-offs go, I feel this solution brings value to everyone. My businesses, my clients and of course the freelancer or consultant.

This post is one in a longer series in trying to share the daily struggles of being a young entrepreneur and businessman. As always, let me know your thoughts, comments or questions.

A recording has been making the rounds this week by Ryan Block of Gdgt, where he is trying to cancel is service with Comcast in the US. In the eight minute conversation (following after his wife, another tech journalist Veronica Belmont, gave up!), Ryan calmly tries to get the rep to just cancel, while the rep just won’t do it.

Comcast has naturally responded to this by blaming the employee for this, and are allegedly trying to get the employee to personally apologize. And this is where they go wrong.

See, I do not believe for a minute that this employee is acting in a very unusual way. Contrary, many people are sharing similar stories. In a typical sales/customer service/customer retention department, compensation would undoubtedly today be set in part by performance. For a so-called retention specialist, this is likely to translate into how many customers he or she can persuade not to cancel.

This story shows a series of issues, the least being how much good a nice experience even when canceling can do. More broadly, it highlights how disposable these low level sales people are to companies today.

For Comcast, it is convenient to have just another scape goat. It does, however, in fact just serves to highlight the systematic approach, which is likely not at all limited to just one person.