By David Scheller
In business you will find two kinds of people: generalists and specialists. Whereas generalists proudly claim to do everything, specialists focus their efforts on a single aspect of their industry.
This division is exemplified by restaurants. At one extreme you will find buffets that serve a little bit of everything — lo mein, tacos, pepperoni pizza, ice cream, and so on. At the other you will find high end steak restaurants. You go to a great steak place for only one thing: steak.
Now ask yourself: Which restaurant has the better food?
The steak restaurant is better, of course, because it does less. It doesn’t have to source a thousand different ingredients. It only needs to focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. Furthermore, it must only convince potential customers that it is the place to go to for one particular dish. Anyone would be prouder to say they own a great steak place than even the best buffet.
“Doing less is doing more.” That is an oxymoron which every businessperson must ingrain in their mind before they set out for success. James J. Hill cared only about railroads. John D. Rockefeller monopolized oil. Henry Ford started out making one model of car. Just like those business greats, your success hinges on your ability to do less.
This is not to say that you should actually work less. Far from it! But by focusing on actually doing less, you will distinguish yourself in your market as the preeminent authority on your field of expertise. Customers will inevitably follow.
There are seven key advantages to doing less in business.
- You will focus on what you do best. Doing less means you get to play to your personal strengths. Instead of chasing after every opportunity where you could create some value, you will get to provide the most value that you are able in certain situations. What’s more, by focusing on what you do best you will only get better at it. In this fashion you will earn authority in your field of expertise, and become the one people seek out for help.
- You will get better prices on materials. Don’t disparage a handyman — his job is difficult, and he must know a lot to do his job well. Still, that handyman might buy only one or two furnaces per year. Compare that to a devoted furnace specialist, who buys shipping containers worth of furnaces at a time. The specialist is getting far lower prices than the handyman by buying in bulk, and that helps their business tremendously.
- It is easier to train employees. Your employees will benefit as much by doing less as you do. To train a handyman requires familiarizing him with everything up to and including the roof. But to train a roofer, you need only direct their attention to the roof. Specialized roofers gain experience faster, become more proficient in their craft, and ultimately underscore the fact that their employer is their market’s foremost roofing authority.
- It is easier to scale. Scaling a business is one of the most exciting aspects of entrepreneurship. It is a token of success, and a sign that greater things are on the horizon. Scaling your business demands that you take several factors into account, such as securing sales and investing in new equipment. If you know precisely what your business does and never stray from that mission, the complicated task of scaling becomes far more manageable.
- It is easier to dominate. The most successful brands are ones that provide one good or service. You don’t see the Kleenex logo on bathroom tissue or paper towels, and as the result people use the word “Kleenex” to refer to one particular product. You want to be the same way. If one of your customers associates your business name with flooring, and another associates it with countertop installation, then your name is synonymous with neither. But when your name stands for roofing and nothing else, you are well on your way to dominating your market.
- It is easier to market. The average American is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements every single day. In order to get attention in such an oversaturated advertising market, you have to keep your message simple. Think of it this way: Megacorporation Unilever has 166 brands. You have likely never seen an ad for Unilever, but you know what Jif, Dawn, and Ben & Jerry’s are because Unilever has branded and advertises each separately. Likewise, marketing your company as the go-to solution for just one thing is far more effective.
- Riches in niches. When everyone is in your target market, no one is. While the idea of serving everyone may seem appealing at face value, it actually severely handicaps your ability to earn lifelong customers. Identify your niche! Maybe it is homeowners in one neighborhood whose asphalt roofs appear more than 15 years old. Focus all your efforts on that niche, and you’ll find that your customer base will grow far faster than if you had targeted everyone who owns a roof in the greater Atlanta area.
It is easy for the novice businessperson to fall into the “more is more” trap. This is the same strategy that a Yorkshire Terrier employs when it charges a flock of ducks — it doesn’t have any particular duck as a goal, and it never catches a duck as the result. Lions, on the other hand, single out their prey and focus all of their attention on it exclusively.
Are you a foo foo dog, or are you the king of the jungle? Once you do business knowing that less is more, you will be pleased by the answer to that question.