Specialize

The phrase “you can’t be everything to everybody” gets tossed around a lot, but people seldom stop to think it through and ponder the importance of that message. I’m not aware of any successful small or medium-sized business that has ever become successful through doing a whole bunch of things half-assed, as opposed to doing a few things very well.

Put another way, and to toss up a gratuitous sports analogy, no one ever won an Olympic Gold Medal in their worst event. Winners figure out what their strengths are, focus on them, and capitalize on their advantages.

I’ve been mindful of this in the past month as I’ve advised my wife on marketing and organizing her fledging business: selling her baked goods on Etsy.com and locally marketing a week’s worth of prepared home-cooked dinners to people who are too busy to cook for themselves.
In keeping with her Type A personality, she wants to be everywhere at once: on every Internet craft community, and splashing out locally as well. “Maybe,” she gushed, “Maybe I should be offering wedding catering!”

It’s taken no small amount of patience to keep her focused on what really matters: baking the world’s best banana bread, and generating the repeat and referral orders that leverage it from a hobby to an actual business.

But what if you don’t know what your strengths are? Well, that’s a problem.

I’ll relate a story from the integration business: Almost two years ago now a dealer I’ve known for years found his company in a tight spot. Their sales funnel, focused almost exclusively on starter-home builders, dried up to nothing. Grasping for straws, what did my friend do? He spent money he didn’t have to renovate his showroom, adding retail displays and started to offer 12V car audio installation.

A home AV integrator and car audio emporium: What could possibly go wrong?

As you can probably guess, they’re long gone.

You can’t slap one business on top over another business as if they were lumps of cookie dough. Everything you do has to be for a reason, and everything you do has to be your best.