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Is Losing Focus Always a Bad Thing?

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I have a great business dilemma that is forcing me to question a long-standing belief of mine. I believe firmly that a huge factor in Aquascape's success has been our singular focus on decorative water features. By resisting the temptations, which I imagine all businesses face, to get into other "related" or even unrelated business ventures, Aquascape has become number one in its field. Yet, now I am being tempted once again to venture out of our core business model to grab hold of a new opportunity, albeit in a related field. But related is still not our core, and if we were to pursue this new opportunity we would be going against our long held value of sticking to the decorative water feature space. Which begs the question: Does sticking with doing what made you the best sometimes prevent you from becoming all that you can be?!

In the past, I have evaluated options and finally rejected each and every new "opportunity" that presented itself outside of our focus on water features. The lure of making cash simply wasn't great enough to survive the acid question I ultimately used to stay committed to my first love, water gardens. That question was: "Can I be passionate about this new opportunity?" Not, Can I like it? Not even, Can I be excited about it? But, Can I truly love it enough to be passionate about it today, tomorrow and even five years from now? By asking that passion question, I was able to reject other influences and stay focused on my core market, inventing and reinventing my business model along the way (see What Got Us Here Won't Get Us There) but always remaining fully vested in water gardens. That is until now.

For the first time, a new opportunity has presented itself that I believe I can be passionate about today, tomorrow, and five years from now. Additionally, this new opportunity has vastly greater upside than our core business and is just emerging as a new industry. And given that this new opportunity leverages some of our current products (in a different application) as well as many of our organization's core competencies while being sold to our existing customers through our current distribution network, it would seem like a slam dunk! Or is it? That apple looked really good to Eve, too, and look how that worked out!

As an innovative company, we want to take a lesson from the past while keeping an eye on the future in order to become all we can be. The last thing any company can afford to do is to fail to realize, as the railroads and many others have, what its true value is to the market it serves. In the end there's only one thing I know for sure: The ultimate success or failure of any company's expanding mission is up to the market to determine. Here's hoping that by deviating from what made us number one, both Aquascape and our customers will be able to grow more in the future, together becoming all we can be.

P.S. Although the use of Aquascape's business opportunity was intended to illustrate my point -- and not to be the point -- I will reveal in a future blog post what the new opportunity is for those of you who are interested. Assuming things go as I expect they will, it shouldn't be long.

Last updated: Dec 27, 2007




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