Do you recognize this question: “Do I start two businesses at one or just one at a time?” I received it over the weekend from my ask-me form on my website. And I have two completely contradictory answers and then an explanation.
First, the question (leaving out parts of it that would identify the person asking it):
I am about to start a business called [omitted] a digital marketing agency. But I also want to start another one, a mining research consultancy company called [omitted]. I am passionate about both but just wondering if I should start both at the same time or start one then use the profit from the first one to start the second one.
Before I answer, I have to enjoy the optimism there. How nice to be wondering whether to fund the second success with profits from the first.
My answer: Focus. It’s going to take a lot of work to start up either one of these. Don’t dilute your efforts. Choose one. It’s going to be harder than you think. Do a business plan for it, then execute, and review and revise the plan constantly.
The contradiction: I’m right now doing exactly the opposite of what I recommend. I’m working on a social media business and a mobile apps business, both of which I’m doing with co-founders, without staff, and without outside investment.
The explanation: It’s dumb, but I get up in the morning, like the idea, and I can’t resist. I have patient co-founders.
So I’m hypocritical, yes. Do what I say, not what I do.
“I don’t know the secret to success, but I do know that the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”
While driving to the office a few minutes ago, I saw an unusual Fedex truck, like a stunted-growth moving van, with the signage: “Fedex White Glove Service.” I don’t know what that is and I don’t care particularly but it made me think how Fedex has expanded past its initial vision of “it absolutely positively has to be there tomorrow.”
Do you think it’s true that businesses have to stay focused when they’re small but develop peripheral vision as the grow?
What I know about Fedex is what I see on television mostly, but it seems like an example of peripheral vision. From that first “absolutely positively” focus on overnight to two-day, then three-day, then bulk, then Kinkos, international somewhere in the mix, now white glove service (whatever that is, it’s about moving, I can tell by the truck).
So that seems like the opposite of focus: peripheral vision, perhaps? Moving from where you are into nearby markets. Seems like a good thing when it works, but do we hear about it when it doesn’t? When businesses lose focus? When starbucks tries to offer cheap coffee, or McDonalds offers fancy lattes?
There’s a lot to be said for understanding who isn’t your customer. And, on the other hand, not arguing with success.
The displacement principle: everything you do rules out something else that you don’t do. It seems to belong inside this paradox.
(Photo credit: from Expediters Online. Click the picture to link to the page.)