As part of the research for the new book I’m writing, I recently met with Richard Baker, the former CEO of Boots the Chemists and now the Chairman of Whitbread plc and DFS Limited.

Richard talked about the importance of strategic focus – concentrating your efforts and resources on those core activities where you can win – and how management teams can easily become distracted chasing sales in markets where they’ll never be able to lead. He calls such distractions “spraying” and ended our meeting by saying “You can’t spray and sprint!” Effort spent trying to grow where you’re not advantaged simply slows you down and reduces the pace at which you can develop your core business.

In his time at Boots, Richard refocused the business on pharmacy, healthcare and beauty, calling time on non-strategic categories and services as diverse as homewares and in-store massages. Alongside operational improvements and sharper pricing, his approach returned the business to growth and led to the successful merger Alliance Unichem in 2006 and the new group’s £11 billion acquisition by private equity firm KKR a year later.

Where are you becoming distracted by non-core revenue growth and how can you stop “spraying” so that you can start “sprinting”?

© Stuart Cross 2015. All rights reserved.