“I’M DIVERSIFIED!” No, Actually You’re Doing Five Things Horribly

Are you Diversified? 

Hopefully, you are a much better multitasker than I am. 

Diversification does not agree with me at all. 

Case in hand, walking and chewing gum at the same time is a huge challenge for me: 

Well, I have a funny story to share with you on my disastrous plan of being DIVERSIFIED” where being told how “Horrible” I was turned into brilliant advice. 

It goes back 20 years ago to the year 2000 (time sure flies when you’re having fun). 

Entrepreneurtude

First, what does it take to be an entrepreneur? 

You need a trait that I refer to as “ENTREPRENEURTUDE.” 

As an entrepreneur, you need a determined and relentless attitude.

Tenacity! Thus, ENTREPRENEURTUDE. 

Unstoppable confidence, right? 

Unfortunately, that confidence can sometimes lead to trouble. 

Overconfidence creates delusion. Cloudy decision making. 

Well, I am a recovering delusional entrepreneur (probably not fully recovered). 

“I’m DIVERSIFIED” = Train Wreck 

Diversified

As an entrepreneur in 2000, truth be told, I was an absolute train wreck. 

I was decent at growing sales……unprofitably though.

My running joke looking back, no one sold a dollar for $.97 better than me (do the math on that one).

Unless you sold your dollar for $.96, no one was going to beat me at $.97.

Impressive, right? 

I found out the hard way that there is no guarantee of scaling your way to profitability. 

However, I had a DIVERSIFIED business.

I had developed 5 separate sections of the business. 

In 2000, I owned a wholesale business (with 2 separate product lines), that was trying to become an eCommerce business while trying to get into manufacturing as well as also attempting to become a drop shipper. Say that five times fast. 

My logic was to reduce vulnerability. 

Create a diversified business where if one area went down, the others would hold up the business. 

In reality, I created a scattered mess. 

Sales were climbing quickly but losses were mounting.

So I finally conceded I needed help

I reluctantly brought in a consultant to analyze the business to help identify challenges and to discover the culprit causing the losses.

DIVERSIFIED = Doing Five Things Horribly 

Once the consultant arrives, we get past introductions and she immediately requests, “tell me about your business.”

I proudly declare, “I’m DIVERSIFIED!” (Remember, I had Entrepreneurtude!).

I explain that If one area suffered or went south, I had four others backing it up to strengthen the business.

She was certainly going to be incredibly impressed, right? (Wrong!)

She then asked if I could explain each area of the business. Provide the details on why and how I had chosen these 5 areas to pursue.

She continued by asking what competitive advantages did the company possess for each area. 

When I was done explaining everything (rambling), she quickly made her assessment and offered a statement that completely changed my life. 

Said looked at me as said:

“Well, I know what your problem is. You are too diversified. Actually, you are doing five things horribly instead of one or two things exceptionally.”  

Are you familiar with the expression, “When the student is ready the teacher appears”? 

Well, my teacher appeared. 

What Are You Absolutely Best At?

She continued on with this question, “What are you absolutely best at”?

Well, truth be told, we weren’t really good at anything at that point.

She was looking for our core which was hollow at that time.

Ouch! That was a tough pill to swallow. 

We had explosive sales that were unprofitable. The business was sinking quickly.

Then she asked, “What do you feel is the future of the company? Where are the profitable growth opportunities?”

My answer: eCommerce.

This seems completely obvious writing this in 2019.

However, declaring this in 2000 was a huge risk.

The dotcom bubble was bursting and eCommerce companies were failing fast.

The business was floundering by pursuing areas where we had no competitive advantage.

I was exhausting time and energy by spreading company resources too thin. 

Give It Everything You’ve Got 

She once again looked at me and said, “Drop each area immediately that are draining your resources where you just explained that you have no competitive advantage.”

She then dropped another bomb, “Since you feel the future is in eCommerce, GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT!” 

Placing a laser focus on a specific area became essential.

Unfortunately, many business owners foolishly pursue weaknesses. I certainly did. 

Additionally, I lacked the resources, expertise, knowledge or finances to overcome those weaknesses. 

Trying to be everything to everyone leads to being nothing to no one and I was guilty as charged! 

Jack of all trades, master of none. 

A common reason for a restaurant failing is the menu simply being too large. Too diversified.

Creativity is a blessing and a curse for many entrepreneurs. 

Narrowing a focus when a ton of revenue ideas and possibilities dangle in front of you is tough. Extremely tough.

What road do you pick?

The challenge is narrowing the selection and picking the profitable path.

Please Pick eCommerce!

My heart, passion and dream was eCommerce

A competitive advantage existed with eCommerce. 

Competition was scarce in 2000 with eCommerce. 

The benefits with eCommerce were tremendous and those benefits still exist today. 

I have made thousands of mistakes over the years but choosing the eCommerce path has been an amazing ride. 

Fortunately, years later our company ended up on the Internet Retailer Top 1000 Companies 3 years in a row. 

I owe all of the company success to my eventual business partner. 

Yet, hearing “You’re doing five things horribly instead of one or two things exceptionally” was brilliant business advice and changed my path. 

Being told how Horrible I was, turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. 

If you find yourself struggling with your business, ask yourself the tough question: are you too diversified? 

Focus on what you are ABSOLUTELY BEST AT & GIVE IT EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT. 

Lastly, if eCommerce is on your radar, go for it & don’t look back!! 

Wrapping It Up 

Thanks for reading this post. 

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