Do one thing well.

How great could your business be, if you focused on just ONE thing?

By Dan Rowell

08 July 2020
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I recently interviewed Welsh Designer and Placemaker Laura Wellington on my podcast and she told me about her favourite brand — Hiut Denim Co.

They’re a Welsh jeans company who have been making jeans for generations.

I pulled up their website and was met by one of the best homepage designs and copy I’ve ever read:

We make jeans. That’s it. Do One Thing Well. We make the best jeans, not the most jeans we can. And we only make jeans. We say no to anything else. No distractions. No compromises. No bobble caps.”

It’s something that I admire and think there are few who can really achieve “Deep expertise and specialisation”.

It takes strict discipline to remove distractions and new opportunities, and double down on one specific thing.

Another guest and friend of mine, Simon Harradence, in response to being asked about his favourite brands noted that often the brands or companies who are intentional and vocal about what they don’t do or make are the ones who stand out.

His example was a company called Red White Cycling, a company specialising in long-distance bib shorts. The founder of this company sent an email out to their customer database advising they would no longer be making other products, which comprised almost half of their entire business. They chose to focus solely on this one product. How brave is that?!

I find these stories inspiring and wanted to pose the question to you.

How great could your business be if you focused all of your resources on doing one thing remarkably well?

What’s the one thing you do that’s most profitable?

What is the thing you back yourself to be so much better than your competitors at?

What’s something that you’re deeply passionate about?

In an ideal world, there would be synergy here.

Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

In his famous essay ‘The Hedgehog and the Fox’, Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.

There are many different interpretations of this parable, but psychologist Phil Tetlock sees it as a way of understanding two cognitive styles; firstly, that foxes have different strategies for different problems. They are comfortable with nuance; they can live with contradictions. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. They reduce every problem to a single organising principle.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins explains:

“Those who built the good-to-great companies were, to one degree or another, hedgehogs. They used their hedgehog nature to drive toward what we came to call a Hedgehog Concept for their companies. Those who led the comparison companies tended to be foxes, never gaining the clarifying advantage of a Hedgehog Concept, instead remaining scattered, diffused, and inconsistent.”

Excerpt from Good to Great.

But that’s risky!

I hear you. But as a consumer, how often do we just want the best person or company for the role? Thanks to Google and our ability to work remotely, or to order online and have it delivered, these products/services are often at arms reach.

If COVID has shone a spotlight on something, it’s that working remotely can be done effectively. Maybe not always as well as in person, but I’d take sitting in a webinar with the world’s expert on B2B Sales over driving across Brisbane to meet with someone less expert but more geographically accessible.

Google Maps is not where the experts are. Great when you’re looking for a fuel station or newsagent, but not ideal if you’re looking for the best doctor in the world to consult on your torn ACL and pump it full of stem cells.

Deep expertise is something few businesses and professionals truly master. It takes some courage to first draw a line in the sand. Truly standing firm on it, though; that’s remarkably different.

In branding terminology this is called your brand positioning, or what you want to be famous for.

You may question the practicality of this if you offer services and not products.

The value of the principle is preserved; what if you placed a strict limit on your range of services and then only offered them to a select group, like an ideal customer group? This is referred to as finding your niche.

 

It’s a concept that Daniel Priestley covers well in his fantastic book, Key Person of Influence.

One of his scenarios is an Investment Manager who specialises in helping wealthy Jewish families from the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

In this article he talks about the reasons people are afraid to ‘niche’.

“It’s a common fear that people have – getting pigeonholed and missing out on work. There are two reasons people don’t want to be pigeonholed into a niche:

1. a fear of not attracting enough clients or enough money within that niche;

2. a fear of getting bored and having no other options outside that niche.”

I agree with him here and think this fear costs people the opportunity to attract more clients and money, and truly excel. We’re kidding ourselves if we believe we can be great at everything.

My challenge to you is to take your key decision makers into the boardroom, grab a whiteboard or some butcher paper and have a crack at doing your hedgehog concept.

 

So, here’s us putting our money where our mouth is:

We are a rebranding and brand refresh agency for B2B businesses. For businesses who sell to other businesses, not to consumers, we are the branding firm for you.

Why B2B?

B2B is often misrepresented as ‘boring industry’. We disagree. Great branding is great storytelling, and I can name countless examples of brilliant stories of businesses and business owners who lead their industries.

Why else?

In B2B, staff are typically harder to train up or replace. Why does this matter for branding? Because we are really good at making your staff love your brand, then helping them make your customers love it too.

The start of a new financial year, a time of reflection and occasionally rebirth, is a grand opportunity to examine your strategic position. This hedgehog concept is a brilliant positioning exercise I encourage you to work through with your team of key decision makers.

If you’d like some help, please get in touch.

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