I've co-authored this article with Sam Ovens of Ovens Enterprises as a sequel to our article earlier this week about beginning your entrepreneurial career as a consultant. The skill sets developed as a consultant are very much integral to this next discussion. The big problem that I see with entrepreneurs and business owners today is that they are generalists who are good at a wide range of things instead of specialists who are magnificent at just one.
I'm sure you've visited dozens of cheap restaurants who have a menu the size of a phone book and serve hundreds of different meals all at substandard quality. They serve every meal they know because they want to broaden their net of potential customers however they end up hurting themselves because they can't serve any one meal well.
The same is true in business.
Entrepreneurs start out with one area of mastery in mind and then a couple of years goes by and they are selling ten different things to all different types of customers and they forget what their core competence is.
You don't have to comb through much business history to see this pattern repeat itself again and again. An entrepreneur starts a business with one area of mastery in mind and then over time they serve multiple different things and now are weak in the one area they had once mastered because they're spread too thin.
Corporate raiders and takeover artists prey on this. A company starts off selling one core thing well and then starts picking fights in industries it has no idea about and then before long a conglomerate is formed competing in five different industries but overall performance is down because there is a lack of focus on one particular thing. The company then gets broken up into pieces where they are operating with their core focus and then before long again the bloat up only for this process to be completed again.
It doesn't matter whether you're a consultant, flower shop owner, restaurant owner or software company owner, you want to be a specialist and truly master one thing. Here are three reasons why:
1). You Will Eliminate 95% Of Your Competition
When you're a generalist everybody is your competition. An excellent example of this is the local print shop that sells website design, business cards, stationary, signwriting and digital marketing services. In each one of those categories they have a whole new world of competition and it is impossible to be good at all of them at once. Most print shops that do this will do a horrible job of all of these things when if they focused on printing only they could quickly build a name as the best in that one category.
How can a print shop busy with all of those things compete with a digital marketing expert whose sole focus is Google Adwords advertising? The expert will beat the bloated generalist company any day of the week and run laps around them in the business world.
How can a restaurant selling Italian, Chinese, Thai and burgers compete in the burger market with a passionate burger expert who cares about nothing else? How can a generalist consultant who offers all round business advice compete in the tax advice market with a seasoned tax specialist?
￼You get my point. Specialists will always beat generalists and as soon as you cut the fat in your business and narrow down to focussing on one thing you will be surprised how 95% of your competition becomes irrelevant.
2). Your Business Will Become More Simple And Fun
Complexity is the devil in business and when you're a generalist you attract complexity like a moth to a flame.
Consider the complexity of running the cheap restaurant with one hundred menu items compared to running an InNOut Burger franchise with just one type of burger and an option of a drink and fries.
With the generalist restaurant you would have to stock hundreds of different types of spices, meats and vegetables and then every time a new order comes through it's an entirely different process from start to finish. The inventory management and kitchen processes would be an absolute nightmare plagued with complexity.
Now on the other hand consider running an InNOut Burger franchise. You would only have to stock one type of meat patty, one type of bun and a few other things. Then whenever an order came through you would complete the same process which you had just completed before and you would be an expert at it since you had done it thousands of times.
The same story is true in any business. When you try to do a range of things you are not prepared and simply can not compete with somebody who has just mastered one thing.
3). You Attract A New Class Of Clients & Can Charge Premium Prices
When people are in desperate need of something or when something is mission critical the specialist is always seeked out and the generalist isn't even considered.
If you had a brain tumor would you go to a general practitioner or would you go to the brain surgeon? The answer to this is obvious and in the business world things are exactly the same. When something is important and results are on the line generalists in the business world are out and it's an expert's game only.
Why? Because you can depend on the expert to get things done and get results. If you need digital marketing results you go to the digital marketing expert not the print shop down the road that does digital marketing too.
When you focus and specialize you attract a whole new class of customers who are serious, make decisions quickly and treat you with respect. It's a whole new class of customers and they come with a whole new class of pricing too.
First class customers in need of an expert will pay two ten times as much because the result is important. This means that you can work with fewer customers, charge higher prices and make a whole lot more profit in your business whatever your industry.
So in summary specialists beat generalists and if you want to enjoy a long and fruitful career in business then you must specialize instead of offer a broad range of things to a broad range of people.
When you specialize you have less competition, less complexity, things are more fun and you get to work with a whole new class of customers with a whole new class of pricing. It's hands down more profitable and you get more respect so the only question is: Why haven't you done it yet?
Don't fall victim to thinking you need to offer one hundred things to satisfy everyone, it's wrong for the cheap Chinese restaurant and it's wrong for you too.