As a branding agency, we encounter many business owners who come to us with their ideas for starting a small business. We get to see some pretty interesting and ambitious business plans. But what always raises a red flag for us is an idea that tries to go too big, too fast, without the proper planning and resources in place to see it through.
It’s difficult enough to run a small business that’s focused on doing one thing, let alone a business that tries to be everything to everybody. History has shown many examples of wars being lost by armies forced to fight on multiple fronts.
This doesn’t mean your plans for world domination are over; it just means that world domination is not the result of a single concerted effort. Some of the world’s most powerful businesses were built one little piece at a time, and are a culmination of a lifetime (or several lifetimes) of work.
Like Virgin, who started as a small mail order record company, or Apple, who started by making a better personal computer. Each of these businesses first developed and mastered a very narrow area of the market. Some of the opportunities in terms of potential customers may have been huge, but the fact is they did one thing—and did it extremely well—before branching off into other areas of business. Their success in that narrow niche is what afforded them the time, resources and connections required to develop the other areas of their business. Today, Virgin has a commercial spaceflight program, an airline, a cellular company, and hundreds of other businesses worldwide. Alongside computers, Apple dominates the music and mobile device market with its lineup of innovative products.
It seems like a scary prospect to narrow your market or lineup of services and products. After all, you want every opportunity to make money and grow. But ironically, the success of a business is more defined by the word no than the word yes.
Of course, the exact strategy is unique to every business. For some, it means choosing a particular product or service that they can deliver really well. For others, it might mean choosing a particular region, industry or demographic that they can afford to market to effectively. Whatever the case, the point is to find a very specific need that you can serve really well and master it. Once you dominate that area of the marketplace, your success will be the fuel for future expansion.
Just be cautious not to confuse focusing your actions with closing your mind to potential opportunities. Don’t merely put the blinders on and call it focus. Always be listening, watching, learning and planning for the future. Life is full of opportunities and you don’t want to miss out on something great when it comes knocking on your door.