Editor's Note: A Matter of Focus.

September 1, 2009
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There was a time when being a magazine editor was relatively straightforward.

In the realm of words, an editor was the supreme ruler, and anything that lay outside that domain was irrelevant. Not so today--with Webinars, video, podcasts, blogs and social media networks, I’m quickly becoming a multimedia master. Of course, it’s fun and interesting to delve into all of these different areas, and it’s exciting to work with new technologies. I thoroughly enjoy having the opportunity to explore new avenues for reaching POB’s audience (which encompasses so much more than “readers” these days). But I have to admit there are times that I reminisce about the simple life, when it seemed so much easier to concentrate on the task at hand.

When I met with Ray O’Connor to discuss some of the recent changes at Topcon Positioning Systems for this month’s special multimedia feature (see the article on pages 12-13 of this issue as well as the video and podcast coverage at, I knew exactly where he was coming from when he talked about needing to refocus the company’s efforts. A lot has changed in the 16 years since O’Connor first joined TPS. The company grew exponentially--from 30 employees to more than 700--and technology has evolved rapidly. It seemed to make sense for the company to group construction and surveying equipment together when it first split into different business units last fall, but times have changed and roles have shifted. “While there are tremendous synergies in the technologies, sometimes you can lose a little bit of focus on the particular market needs that you’re serving,” O’Connor said. “Surveyors need specific products in order to increase their productivity and cut their costs, and [the TPS business] should be focused on that.” The company created a new survey business unit to achieve that goal.

Today’s surveying and mapping firms face similar challenges in assessing their business models. “Diversification” became a key buzzword as the recession evaporated traditional revenue streams, and firms of all sizes began exploring other markets in search of new opportunities. But there is always the risk of jumping in too quickly with a new technology or getting in over your head pursuing too many different markets at once. How can a business--and especially a small business--remain focused on its core capabilities while simultaneously taking in a broader view?

Business gurus will tell you that doing one thing well is vital to running a successful enterprise. But before you use that point to argue your position, consider the strength of your core. Is it worth defending? Or do you need to reassess your strategy?

No matter how well I hone my writing abilities, my words become worthless if no one reads them. So, too, surveys lose their value if the clients’ needs aren’t considered. The markets are changing, and we have to adapt by using different tools and techniques. For surveyors, that means “thinking spatially and globally,” as Michael L. Binge, LS, GISP, notes in “Surveying GIS” on pages 34-36. For me, it means providing information in a variety of different ways while simultaneously improving my time-management skills.

It’s neither simple nor straightforward, but having the right focus is crucial to success.

Share your thoughts on this column at To contact the editor, send an e-mail to pobeditor@bnpmedia.

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