“My company is engaged in landscaping, web design, building construction and importing of luxury cars. We can also carry out any kind of contracts you desire us to.”
Does this sound familiar? To me, it does. Regularly, I encounter businessmen who can take up to half an hour just listing the things their companies do, and it takes the grace of God not to sleep off while they are talking. As far as they are concerned, it is all about the hustle. Where the money is to be made, there will they be.
I disagree with such business philosophy of doing any and every kind of business you can do so long as there is profit to be made there. It is a philosophy that lacks focus. When I started my consulting firm in 2009, the first few things I did was to determine my target group (small to medium scale businesses), but more importantly, the specific type of business consulting I was going to be offering. I once had a heated argument with a friend, who was pushing for me the idea of doing training consulting for firms. But since it went against my focus of strategy, innovation and branding, it was a no-no for me.
This might sound radical, especially coming from an entrepreneur who cannot really said to have hit it big enough to ignore other income streams for his company, but I foresaw myself getting stuck in a field I had no intention to be in, and causing my company’s brand to suffer by lacking a simple definition of what we do.
The idea of focus in business is not just to determine what can one do excellently and enjoyably, but also determining what one ought not to do. Daily, we talk about Steve Jobs and how his genius transformed Apple from a struggling computer maker to the world’s most valued company under 20 years. But what few people know is that the start of that transformation was Jobs cutting down on the number of products Apple was making to focus on only a few. In his first strategy session with his executives, he is said to have ordered them to focus on only one product in each product category: Laptops and Desktops were then further divided into Business and Personal each. That was it: from about 30 models of computers down to just 4 models. That was before the age of iPods, iPhones and iPads. Even as at today, Apple has only made 4 models of its iPhone, each coming in only 2 colour options, compared with a competitor such as RIM (Blackberry), of whom I have lost count of the models available presently in the market.
In my line of work, the first task I carry out with clients is to be able to create a one-sentence definition of what the company does. And by one sentence, I do not mean a long one sentence. It could be just, ‘at XYZ, we are a design company: graphics, web, product, workspace and industrial design’. As many as the options sound, the key word there is DESIGN. But how in heavens am I going to be able to create a word to define the collection of landscaping, building construction, web design and luxury car importation? I do not want to use conglomerate to describe such a small business that is attempting to be a jack of all trades, and yet, a master of none.
Personally, I desire to see that the next generation of entrepreneurs in Nigeria become game-changers, and not just copycats of those before us. We should not give in to the belief that one should add ‘General Contractor’ or ‘General Services’ to what his company does, in order to take advantage of ‘opportunities’ that present themselves. If there is a business opportunity for a contract or project that is neither what your company does, nor intends to go into, the preferable thing is to recommend someone you know to be proficient in that area.
Define specifically what you intend your company to be doing. Not only that, with every opportunity, you should think of the long-term impact of it on your business. If you have defined properly what you want to be doing, you will find it easier to say no to opportunities that though profitable, fall outside the purview of your business capabilities, intentions and experience.
Focus. This is one business principle that has not been emphasized enough.
Focus – Following One Course Until Successful.
Image from coolinsights.blogspot.com