Growing up I was a pretty darn good kid. The good grades. Not too much trouble. Pretty much did what my parents and others expected of me. I thought I was doing it all right. Striving to make everyone happy… and do what I could to be a “well-rounded” person.
As I grew up and started my first couple companies… I thought that same well rounded approach would serve me well. So I dove in and tried to create a company that just made my customers happy.
If a customer said they thought they wanted X… I’d find a way to get them X. Because we’ve all learned the customer is always right… right? (this is totally wrong I’ve learned… I’ll share my stories on this in another article 😉 ).
What ended up happening was over the first 4 or 5 years of being an entrepreneur I really lost sight of one big thing.
People always tell us to find out “who we are” and to really plant a stake in the ground in your marketplace in business for “what you stand for”.
But it’s so easy to have what I call “mission creep”… where what you stand for and what you “are” grows and grows and grows because you’re trying to make your “customers happy”and…
it ends up a big glob of a mess until you don’t know who you are or what your company is really about anymore.
It happens almost without you even knowing… then it seems like all of the sudden you’re waking up and not excited about going to work (even though you created that darn company you work at!)… not really sure what your next move is in business… and you have a tough time really finding that ever growing raving fanbase of customers who are crazy in love with you and tell everyone they know about you.
So the way that I have reversed this in my own life and my own businesses (several times) is the opposite of the standard advice of “discover who you are and what your business is about”.
I started writing down the things I knew I did NOT stand for in life and business. The stuff I stood against.
Sometimes the stuff you stand against really helps you clarify what it is that you really stand for. If you don’t feel strongly against something in your marketplace or something your ideal customers are experiencing… it’s tough to feel strongly for what you truly stand for.
When you’re in the middle of the road… trying to make everyone happy and cater to each customers whim who comes in your door… your ideal customers (the last two words are key) no longer see you as the best choice to solve their problems. You’re no longer a specialist (which can command higher prices)… you’re a generalist… and you’ll never have that crazy raving fanbase that would jump over burning coals to have what you offer.
So take a leap in your business and life and stake your claim for something you truly believe in… and don’t be afraid to plaster that all over your business (your branding, marketing, in your store / office, when you talk with customers, etc.)… your ideal customers will be attracted to that like crazy. The people who don’t resonate with that message won’t be… and they’re not your ideal customers… so it doesn’t matter.
To really find what you stand for… start by writing down what you truly stand against in life or as a business… what your business is NOT to your marketplace… and that’ll help you get much more clear on what it is that your business is really all about and who in your market to really target.