One of the biggest mistakes virtually all small businesses (and some large ones) make is trying to offer everything to everyone, everywhere…all the time. Admittedly, it is a tempting trap.

You decide you’re going to sell pretzels, and you become pretty good at it. You become The Pretzel King. When people think of great pretzels, they think of you. This rush of success would give you pause, and you might think to yourself, “What can I do for an encore?” So you start to sell popcorn, and suddenly you’ve got two product lines. Maybe this goes on for a while as you keep line extending (think peanuts, gummy bears, potato chips, etc.). Pretty soon you’ve got a whole array of snacks on your cart. You’ve jacked up your overhead, and your sales are starting to plateau.

Then suddenly, some Millennial opens a pretzel stand on the next block and declares himself The Pretzel Master-no one knows more about pretzels than he does. He even provides a little pamphlet with each sale that tells the story of the origin of pretzels. And as a special promotion, he offers “Buy a Pretzel, Give a Pretzel,” wherein he donates pretzels to folks in need with every sale he makes.

Before you know it, you’ve become just another snacks purveyor and he’s become the pretzel expert, the aficionado. The moral here? Obvious. The key to success is focus.

But this may all seem curious in light of the activities of some behemoth companies like Google, which, having conquered the search market, decided they needed to get into social media, email, digital news, web browsing and most recently hardware products like smartphones, wearables and even driverless cars. We know how computerized eyewear worked out for them, so we’ll have to see where they land with the other initiatives.

The keys to remaining focused in your business are simple: 1) Own a single word or concept in your customer’s mind which becomes what you stand for. It could be fashion, or value, or technology or health. 2) Support that single word or concept with a memorable visual image. When you think Nike you immediately think of that all too ubiquitous “swoosh,” or you see the “golden arches” when you think of McDonald’s (presuming you do).

Think about the many companies supplying the optical industry and how they’ve evolved. Are they still true to their original core focus, or have they become highly diversified? Are they more effective or less effective? Do they still dominate a specific category, or have they abandoned their top perch in the name of expansion?

It pays to stay focused, stay uncomp-licated and thereby become the expert.


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