Ever hear the term "Jack of all trades?" It was originally a compliment for someone who had various abilities. But when "master of none" was added to the end, it turned negative. "Jack of all trades, master of none" now describes someone who is trying to diversify themselves, but failing to be really great at any of the things in which they're involved.
When businesses take on the Jack-of-all-trades mentality, it's almost impossible for them to maintain focus. And when businesses lose focus, they lose customers.
To look deeper into this concept, I talked to Gerry Hays, the founder and CEO of DinnerCall, a public benefit corporation founded in 2015 out of Indianapolis. DinnerCall's premier initiative is The Billion Family Dinners Challenge--a social advocacy venture that aims to bring families back together at the dinner table.
Gerry shared his thoughts on focus and how he believes adrift businesses can get it back. So, for you business leaders out there hoping to diversify your company, keep in mind that losing focus could have serious consequences for your company, and consider applying these principals to define your business's bull's eye.
Where exactly do you see lack of focus in the business world?
Whether you notice or not, tons of leading companies lose their inertia everyday due to lack of focus. For example, well-known retailers such as Sears, Staples and Radio Shack have faded from the spotlight as a result of losing focus. You can also see this crippling phenomenon in general industries.
When Sears started, its momentum in the household retail industry shot them to the top. They even got household-name status, not to mention a dedicated skyscraper. But as soon as competitors like Walmart started taking over the space, Sears tried diversifying itself and lost its momentum. 200 Sears closed in 2014, proving its status as big-dog in the household retail space was lost.
Staples suffered when it started marketing to individual office needs instead of its original focus, small business needs, exclusively. Eventually, the problem was identified and Staples switched its focus back to their original audience.
When Radio Shack was founded way back in 1921, it focused on hobbyists. But when it saw an opportunity in consumer electronics, it lost its focus. Because Radio Shack wasn't locked in on one space, it lost standing in both industries.
As a more general example, look no further than grocery stores. Ready-to-eat food is a great opportunity, but grocers aren't focused on it. As stores try to gain share in almost every restaurant category, the competition is required to up its game. Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs) that serve pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches are still going to be the top pick for customers wanting that specific offering. But, grocery store delis could take ownership of a specific item, providing a fighting chance of owning at least one ready-to-go meal option. When people think of grocery store ready-to-eat food, they think of rotisserie and fried chicken. So, if grocers owned those items specifically, there would be a much better chance of becoming the primary provider in customers' minds.
What's the biggest impact when you lack focus?
These are just a few examples of how focus can make or break a business. If you lose focus, you run the risk of perpetually damaging your company.
When competitors are more focused on a certain space than you, they'll eventually gain more attention and trust there. And when customers are choosing someone else over you, it'll almost certainly hurt your bottom line.
How can businesses refocus themselves?
A great remedy to lack of focus is to revisit your original goals. Think about why you initially set them and how you can update your efforts to align with them again.
Don't get me wrong--it's good to stay on top of industry trends, but that doesn't mean you have to overextend yourself. If you become a Jack of all trades, master of none, no customers will want to invest their time, money or effort in your offerings. So, return to your roots and lead your business to re-focus.