He who chases two rabbits catches neither
This ancient quote from Confucius is entirely applicable to today's businesses. While it certainly is possible to catch two or more rabbits, rarely if ever can one catch them both at the same time.
Many successful businesses are strong in multiple niches concurrently. But, I don't know of any small businesses that have successfully entered and dominated multiple niches simultaneously.
The reason is exactly the same as that preventing one from catching two rabbits at the same time. Success requires focus. Multi-tasking, which is just time slicing our attention among several activities in rapid succession, is the antithesis of focus. Those who insist on practicing it will likely remain scattered in their activities, frustrated by their apparent lack of time, and enjoy satisfactory success at best.
Jim Collins, in his famous book "Good to Great", talks about the Hedgehog Concept. While Collins' work did focus on large, publicly traded companies, it's revealing that even large companies that understand three key concepts consistently outperform their competitors:
- what they are passionate about,
- what drives their economic engine, and
- what they can be better than anyone else at.
The third requirement is that you truly understand what you can be best at, and this becomes your niche. Collins goes to some length to drive home the point that this is not about goal-setting or planning, it's about discovery.
Business owners need to learn what they can be better than others at, and this may not be what they view as their core business or even core competency. This learning process can involve some brutal self-reflection. Maybe where you are focusing your energies is a niche others are fulfilling better than you do.
Orville Redenbacher's niche is popcorn. Arguably, nobody does it better. The company works extraordinarily hard to maintain that status, as they expand their offerings into variations of popcorn.
Think about what you do, relative to the simple niche of selling popcorn. Orville could have decided he was in the food business, and tried to develop a whole range of grocery products, or he could have decided he was in the business of making many kinds of food from corn.
The message here is don't be shy about an apparently narrow niche where you are the best.
Find your niche, dominate it passionately, and keep subsequent growth consistent with your Hedgehog Concept, one rabbit at a time.