(Android lawn statues at "Googlplex" by achinthamb via Shutterstock)
Students often hear, do what you love and you’ll learn to be good at it.
Whether playing an instrument or programming, using your personal skills as assets can prove to have a tremendous return on investment. But in an age where there is so much ready information and easy access to learn about different things, it has become increasingly harder to be disciplined and focused on one skill.
Warren Buffett has said that building a single skill into a level of professional expertise is like building your own personal moat. Through developing a skill, you are making sure that no one can can cross the moat and stop you from living in your castle of personal happiness and financial success. Taking a skill, owning that skill and having that be part of your personal asset is the best way to widen your moat.
This ideology of exerting discipline and focusing on a particular thing is applicable to business. In a world with a neverending amount of startups, I see many people tackling a wide variety of problems. One common issue I see, and I’m a victim of this myself, is that people try to take an idea and market it to a mass audience. When you try to do everything at once, you get nothing done. Peter Thiel in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future touches on this. Build a business around a niche. Target a specific demographic and then expand.
It’s unbelievable how many people claim to be experts in everything.
After recently working with a social media firm, I decided to look into other firms and conduct a little research. As I began to dig in and research, I began to realize every company had one thing in common. They did everything! Organic followings, paid advertisements, website design, email marketing, influencer marketing — you name it. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, any platform you could think of. It’s unbelievable how many people were experts in everything.
And not only did they offer every service imaginable, they were equipped with the expertise to serve every vertical, or claimed to be, at least. Are the skills required to master paid advertising on Facebook different then those to do email marketing? Does building a Twitter following for a pet store require different strategies and knowledge than building a Facebook following for a burger restaurant? From my experience and research, my opinion is yes.
From startup experience, research and listening to some of the greatest entrepreneurs like Thiel and Buffett, it’s apparent that small and specific is the way to go. Furthermore, some of the biggest companies today are an example of this. Google, in 1997, began as a search engine. Once they were able to hone in on becoming a search engine and prove themselves, they attained trust to expand their business. In 2017, one can find Google developing a self-driving car, eye-glasses and a phone, in addition to their advertising, internet and communication services. (Though OK, not many of those other ventures have taken off.) It’s hard to imagine that Google would have been so successful if it would have attempted to do all of this from the start.
First, build trust in one specific, superior product. Then broaden your scope.
Next time your pursuing a business idea, I think it is important to ask the following question: what market niche are we going to go after and how can we focus on it? Building the next Facebook could be the next billion-dollar idea but unless you have a special power, your product isn’t going to reach everyone at once. Find a very specific niche, go after that niche and then expand.