Do One Thing & Do It Better Than Anyone Else
The other day, I received a business plan from a pair of entrepreneurs who are smart, talented, and passionate--exactly the formula you want to see. I reviewed the plan they sent me (well, OK, just the PowerPoint). And they had a great idea. Interesting enough to keep reading.
But when I got to the fifth slide, they had another idea. And then later, another idea. Three good ideas in one plan. Sounds like a bargain, right? Wrong! Only a fraction of ideas actually get pulled off.
What do you think happens when you try to launch three ideas at once? Nothing. To implement even one good idea takes a mountain of work--strategic planning, product development, marketing pushes, financing, administration, human resources, and so much more. Taking one idea to profits is hard. To be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to realize the devil is in the details. Don't fall into the trap of trying--like so many entrepreneurs--to do too much.
Instead, you want to be the best at one thing your customers want or need. Focus on how that one thing you do best can deliver value to your customers. Become irreplaceable to your customers.
But that's not all. When you launch a business, you want to make a case to yourself for what makes you the best at what you plan to do. Each time I launched a new business, I took out a pencil and sheet of paper and wrote down a list of the key strengths and advantages that made me uniquely qualified to win in that particular space. Did I have special skills? Deep experience? Industry relationships? Patentable technology? If there's no set of assets that you possess that puts you ahead of everyone else in the given marketplace, then maybe you should move on and find a different idea that you are uniquely qualified to win at.
At ColorJar, my innovation consultancy, I call this finding your "golden purpose." The reason you and your company exist. The one thing you do so well that people recognize you for it. Focus only on being the leader in that product and service, and all else will follow.
Then, once people have trust and confidence in you and your abilities, they will come to you for more. Amazon sold only books when it started, but it was the best darn bookseller on the planet. Once customers became comfortable with Amazon and loved buying books on the site, they started asking Amazon for more. Today Amazon sells thousands of products. But the company started by becoming the best at one thing.
Entrepreneurs today see successful companies that sell many products or offer many services and forget that they didn't start that way. These companies gained credibility by being the best at one thing they were uniquely qualified to do. Google started out as a simple search engine. Zappos was just an online shoe seller. Richard Branson launched Virgin Records; only later did it become an airline, resort, mobile service, and even a commercial space program. These companies proved themselves in the minds of customers by winning their categories. They raised their hands high in one specific area of expertise and owned it before they launched another idea or two. That's what opened the door to the future.
So find a problem to solve, grab your pencil, and list your assets. Discover your golden purpose. Set aside all your other good ideas. And become the best darn whatever-you-are that you can be. The rest will follow.
JEFF HOFFMAN | Columnist | Co-founder, ColorJar
Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of ColorJar, is a serial entrepreneur who was on the founding teams of Priceline.com and uBid.com. He is also a frequent public speaker on the topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.