Start small, start narrow

If there’s anything I’ve learnt in the last few years, it’s to start small and narrow, no matter what the temptation is.

My earliest experience of this (or rather – the opposite experience!) was when, right after finishing the “Training Academy” at my first recruitment firm, I was assigned a whole new business area to develop, one which the firm had not yet touched.

In my naivety and excitement, I went after all sorts of institutions, and all sorts of Managers/Heads of within those firms, spreading myself far too thin. I was chasing my tail and didn’t get anywhere. I was trying to do everything for everyone, and was getting nowhere. In that time, I made next to nothing in terms of fees for the company, and so no commission. Coupled with relatively long hours and an extremely modest base salary, this was quite frustrating.

There are countless examples of this in the real world, and we only have to look at the successful businesses that we see around us today. For example, Amazon started selling just one thing – books. It became the master seller of books online before gradually expanding into other areas, and becoming the all-encompassing one-stop-shop that it is today.

I have realised that, if you try to please everyone, you usually don’t really please anyone. You might mildly get their attention, but their is no focus point, no target message, no making them feel special. Inevitably, you have to focus on one segment of the audience, and be willing to serve those who want to go “all in” and say “Hell, yeah!”, which will inevitably mean others stay well away, and even go out of their way to say “No thanks! Not for me” or words which can feel more damaging. I’m beginning to appreciate that that’s OK. You target “the remnant”, quoted in this essay which my friend Isaac Morehouse introduced me too, and those targeted early adopters may then be the spark which captures the attention of others around them.

Start small, start narrow. It’s all too tempting not to, and we can find out attention dragged in all sorts of directions to please others but, in the medium-long term, you’re far better off concentrating your efforts.

“We turned down one of our first big enterprise opportunities, as its product requirements would have sent us down a path we were not willing to take” – Mikkel Svane, Founder & CEO, ZenDesk (extracted from “Startupland: How Three Guys Risked Everything to Turn an Idea Into a Global Business)

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