When you hear the word “hedgehog,” what is the first thing that jumps to mind?

If you’re like most people, you’ll see a small, spiny animal floating around in your imagination. At the same time, you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with business, unless you work in a zoo, perhaps. The answer – probably more than you would guess.

Here at BIG, there are a couple key business books that we think contain a lot of pertinent, actionable wisdom. One of these is Good to Great by Jim Collins. Within the book, which describes the key common characteristics of “good-to-great” companies, Collins dedicates an entire chapter a principle that he relates to (you guessed it) a hedgehog.

Being a hedgehog is all about finding simplicity in a complex world. With the context of extremely successful modern businesses, the Hedgehog Concept that Collins and his team developed is based on the idea that great companies should ask themselves three key questions:

1.     What can we the best in the world at?

2.     What drives our economic engine?

3.     What are we deeply passionate about?

By taking the answers to these questions and only focusing their organizational efforts on the things that overlap in all three, hedgehog companies simplify their world. Since they know exactly what they need to focus on, they can subsequently dedicate all of their efforts toward achieving excellence in those few areas. By keeping their Hedgehog Concepts in their minds at all times, these companies are able to avoid spontaneously pursuing goals, product line extensions, and acquisitions that distract them from their primary goals.

This may work for huge companies, but what does this have to do with the individual professional?

Here at BIG, we are constantly preaching the importance of having not only a To Do List, but also, and probably more importantly, a To Don’t List. The premise behind this tool is simple. Business development professionals are busy, and as a result they need to be very prudent in how they utilize their most valuable resource – their time. Do you know where you are spending your valuable working hours? What activities and general categories of tasks demand the majority of your time?

Most individuals have a pretty good idea of where they spend their time. Moreover, the majority also believes the work that they do on a daily basis is helping them to move things forward within their business. This is great, but there is still room for improvement. The key question that professionals should ask themselves is, “Is this the BEST use of my time right now?” It might be a good use of time, but is there something else you could be doing that is even more important?

Using your personal and company strategic goals, you can begin to critically assess each and every activity you spend your time on. Just about everyone has something that they could cut out to make room for something better. Is there anything on your list that doesn’t align with your goals? Is there anything that eats up a large amount of your BD time, but that doesn’t give you the results you want? If so, it needs to go.

Now comes the hard part – putting your To Don’t List into action. The first step consists of taking the list from your head and physically writing it down. Take a piece of paper and list the things that you need to stop doing. Find a visible spot on your desk, one that you will see every time you sit down, and put your To Don’t List in that spot. The small, constant reminders will help you to remember what you're going to stop doing in order to free up your schedule for something even better.

Great companies and great professionals don’t get distracted by every opportunity that comes their way. Instead, they focus on a few key strategic goals that align with their Hedgehog Concept(s). This laser-like focus, combined with great discipline, allows these companies to use their money, energy, and time to pursue the best opportunities.

Great companies are hedgehogs. Rainmakers are hedgehogs. Shouldn’t you be one, too?