FOCUS. It’s a powerful word in the world of an entrepreneur. FOCUS on your goals. Structure your day so you can FOCUS getting the important things done.
FOCUS on your revenue objectives. FOCUS on your customers. There’s lots of advice available out there to help entrepreneurs and business owners FOCUS on what’s important.
My personal experience as the co-founder of KANDY Outdoor Flooring has reminded me that regardless of education (I have an MBA) or experience (this is my 2nd company) it is still possible to stray off the FOCUS path.
I’m hoping that sharing my personal experience with brand focus may help you, if you find yourself in similar situations.
Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)
Entrepreneurs are wired a little differently. One of the many upsides of being an entrepreneur is that we see opportunity where others see challenges and pitfalls. One of the downsides is that it’s easy to want to be all things to all people. When someone asks you for assistance, regardless of whether it fits into your core business offering, you immediately see it as an opportunity. This is “shiny object syndrome”. It leads to a diluted focus and can end up hurting your business rather than helping.
KANDY’s SOS Experience
In the first months of the first season at KANDY Outdoor Flooring, we saw so many shiny objects! We had customers asking us whether they could use our product around pools, in garages and driveways and showers and inside truck beds and you-name-it. They’d say, “Can you…” and we’d say, “Yes! How far? How fast?” Because we didn’t know what to expect from the condo market segment from a seasonality perspective, we initially thought all these other potential applications would help us de-seasonalize and spread revenue over a full year.
“Captain, I Think We Have A Problem”
I realized we were in SOS territory when I got artwork back from our designer and there were 6 different versions of our logo. There was plain old KANDY, plus, Garage KANDY, Condo KANDY, Commercial KANDY, Deck KANDY and Event KANDY. Yes, that’s what I had asked him for, but it wasn’t until I was looking at them all together that I realized it had become much too complicated. It showed we had lost sight of who we were, and whom we were serving. I saw that we were diluting our value across all those other applications and market segments, and we simply had to make a course correction, fast.
How We Fixed It and Focused
In simple terms, we got back to basics. We went back to the reasons we started the business in the first place, which was to serve the condo market and provide condo owners with what we couldn’t find as consumers. A market we knew was underserved – in fact, it wasn’t being served at all before KANDY – and a market we knew really well. We already had successes, a critical mass of very happy customers, testimonials, and referrals. This market was already well established for us, and we drew confidence from that.
We also engaged the services of a brand strategist, David Reeve of Unleash Culture, who did a couple of key things for us.
First, he helped us clarify our brand purpose of “Expanding Home Experiences”, and our core values:
- Bring out the best in everyone
- Be the solution
- Deliver on every promise
- Ever evolving, and
- Passion for condo living.
Next, he helped us develop the plan and tools to serve our core condo market with excellence. (I’ll go into the details of this planning process and outline the tools in a future post.)
After that, the shift for us was virtually overnight. We shifted to serving our core condo market deeply and thoroughly, instead of spreading the limited resources of our small organization thin trying to please a wide swath of different customer groups.
3 Other Business Benefits of Focus
It may seem obvious, but we got better at saying ‘no’. We got much better at qualifying leads before we booked a free in-home consultation. Our closing ratios were higher in the condo market than they were in the other segments we were reacting to, so our cost of acquisition dropped and profitability rose.
We also got really clear about our value proposition: Service, Quality, Choice. Service isn’t first in the list by accident. We know that having a vested interest in the customer experience means KANDY needs to be local. It’s one of the main reasons we’ve chosen the franchise model for our growth strategy. You need to live and work in the community in order to provide exemplary service to the customer. We are a service company, not a product company. We weren’t really able to articulate that before.
We got far better at serving the market with excellence. There are unique aspects of condo living that span many different characteristics: the way condos work, strata councils and condo boards, concierges, property managers, bylaws, rules and restrictions. Together, these complex elements need to be understood, in fact mastered, in order to serve the market with excellence. As we focused, we were able to get deeper into the psyche of the client and hone our approach. It’s paying dividends every day.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
Don’t wait for SOS to set in before you develop your brand purpose. Your brand purpose is the guide that you can hold each shiny object against to see if it complements or detracts from the brand purpose.
And stick to your guns! There will be lots of people along the way who will tell you your focus is too narrow, you’re missing out, it can’t be done. But you know it can.