One of the main lessons of an excellent book I read called “Good to Great” made this point very well: knowing what you need to stop doing is just as important as what you’re doing or should be doing. When good companies rose to be great companies, they often decided to stop doing things they’d been doing. Sometimes these things were actually a major part of their business, and some were even still profitable.
But, wait, why would you stop doing something profitable? That’s because the leaders of these companies identified an area where they could be the BEST, not just third-best or second-best. Just because it’s technically productive, you could be doing MORE. You know how they say, work smarter, not harder. This is exactly what these great companies did.
For example, Walgreens once had a food service division, a fairly profitable one at that. But when Cork Walgreen took over the business, he eliminated it, deciding instead to focus entirely on making their pharmacies the best “corner drug stores” in the world. Of course, this worked out well. While CVS is now the number one in the US, Walgreens along with Boots Alliance in Europe has done just fine.
Another company that did very well even by eliminating a major part of their business was the steel company NUCOR. For years they went head to head with Bethlehem Steel, but finally, the decision was made to scrap (no pun intended) their more conventional mill model. Instead, they decided to go to the mini-mill concept, to reduce costs while still creating high-quality products. That model worked for them quite well, and they are very much still around.
Focus On What Your Brand Does BEST!
I’ve written before about how the greatest companies often have a “hedgehog concept” - meaning you focus on what you’re best at while ignoring everything else. When it comes to starting a great business, you need to find what market you serve the very best and focus entirely on that. Of course, you also need to be adaptable and identify what ways you need to change your strategy as the market changes and shifts.
Of course, identifying the processes you do that don’t serve you well and eliminating them first is a good thing to do too. Are you spending too much time on one or more social platforms that don’t provide you any positive value? Are you promoting products and services that never sell? That seems easy enough to do, but sometimes, out of habit, we keep doing certain things that no longer help us or are no longer worth our return on investments. The hard part is letting go of things that make us money, but not enough to be worth our investment of time and resources. That time and those resources could be better served by focusing on a more narrow focus.
Yes, sometimes drastically shifting your business model is hard to do. It doesn’t always work. But, if you’re in a position where your business isn’t growing or growing too slowly to be sustainable, sometimes it’s worth taking the chances. Your time is the most valuable resource, and you can’t be wasting it on things that don’t have an appreciable, sustainable positive effect for your brand.
If You’re Already Successful, Why Not Just Keep Doing It?
If your brand is already doing well, does this advice even apply? Yes, it does. You’d be surprised how even the most SUCCESSFUL companies are constantly finding better and more efficient ways to do things. I’d argue that some of these measures aren’t always the best way to go - such as layoffs or making other drastic cost cutting measures.
In fact, the BEST thing to do is simply look at how shifting your business model could help you keep jobs. After all, being reassigned within the same company is a lot better for company morale. Plus, it’s much cheaper in time and resources to retrain existing employees than on-boarding brand new ones; obviously, some won’t work out, but in cases where great companies drastically shifted their business models, they tried to get as many of their existing people on-board, as possible.
While we’re on the subject, you need to be sure that anyone you work with, whether they be suppliers, your existing client, or your own employees are on board with what you’re doing. If you need to do something to make your company better, and you have people not on board, it may be time to part ways. The good of your company and brand depend on being adaptable. “Good to Great” called it making sure the right people are on the bus. That’s a good analogy.
Every great business and brand starts with one, but it’s the team that wins out in the end. Having the right people and the right branding strategy is what will turn your business from a good one to a great one.
So, find the things that you need to stop doing, and find the one thing that you’re best at. Then, find a way to do it that’s both measurable and profitable. You’ll find you suddenly have a lot more time at doing what you do best.