12 Apr Tales from the Trenches
Since Incite’s inception 13 years ago, I have definitely learned a great deal. Many lessons stemmed from learning from my mistakes and there are definitely a few I wished I had learned sooner. In working with many of our clients over the years, I’ve learned that these mistakes are not uncommon and that many companies fall victim to these same mistakes.
At a recent informal gathering of business owners, I noted three valuable lessons:
1. Learn to say no
Too many businesses try to be everything to everyone. They have too many products, too many services, and too many good ideas. It might feel counterintuitive, but the more you focus and specialize, the more you grow. Excellence comes from expertise and you don’t build expertise without specializing. Having a clear target market and a focused service offering is the most certain path to success. Steve Jobs put it best: “Apple’s success came from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we didn’t…try to do too much.”
2. Market feedback is king
Companies get hung up with perfecting their products or services before taking them to market. Until you know what real customers think, what they value, and what they’ll pay for, you have no idea if your product or service has potential. What you think is not as important as what the market thinks. Get real feedback early to avoid spending vast amounts of time and money chasing an idea that just won’t fly. Feedback should be an ongoing process to help you avoid becoming complacent or irrelevant.
3. Being a great chef doesn’t mean you’ll run a great restaurant
Entrepreneurs often have a unique talent or passion. They could be great designers, carpenters, or chefs. Having a talent or passion is a great start, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that this will automatically translate into running a successful design firm, construction company, or restaurant. Running a business has little to do with the craft behind it. Business requires a unique set of skills. In fact, the owners of a restaurant or construction company have far more in common, in terms of job description, than a restaurant owner and a chef. If you don’t possess the business skills, it may be a good idea to partner, hire, or align with someone who does.
Running a business is a noble venture and one with many rewards. By learning to say no, seeking market feedback early, and appreciating the special skills needed to run a company, you can avoid common business mistakes and get to those rewards that much faster.