Don’t Forget that Your Core Business Is Where the Money Is

"My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on just a few things." - Bill Gates

Do one thing and do it well. Do it better than anyone in the area. Do it better than anyone in your county. Do it better than anyone in the state, or even the nation. Most business owners make the mistake of being in too many different businesses at once, and for most of the 1990s I was one of them.

It’s amazing how easy it becomes to justify buying a $10,000 copy machine to cut down on your print-shop bills when the payments are just $89 a month. Or to expand the line of products you sell to your existing client base beyond the areas of your core business. While clients may trust you with their billing, they may not trust you with their office supplies or vice versa. Focus on being known for one concept and build your business around that core value.

When I was in my twenties, my friends and I used to frequent a certain hole-in-the-wall bar because it featured over 300 different brands of beer. It did not pretend to be a restaurant, a sports bar, or an Irish pub, just a bar that offered about every beer in the world at that time! Consequently, their overhead was low and their profits were high.

A friend of mine with a fairly large wholesale printing operation decided that he could make a killing in the copy shop business by using copy shops to feed business to his large presses. He opened three shops at once in nearby cities. The hours were brutal, the staff unreliable, and the jobs that came in were so small they were hardly worth running. Six months into the venture he sold them at a loss.

The following year, he refocused on the wholesale printing business. This was the business he knew inside out; this was the business he had made his living from for over a decade. He hired more reps, kept the presses running 24 hours, and tripled his business. By working with single-minded focus, he turned a modest enterprise into a multimillion dollar company in just over 12 months. He did this by focusing on his core strengths and expanding the one business he knew better than anything else.

When my Martial Arts America business was rolling, I decided to get into the student billing business. It seemed like a perfect product extension. I had four hundred schools under license that were using one billing company or another. To make it easy, I partnered with a small billing company looking to grow and branded it with a great name for the industry, “Black Belt Billing.” While not a total failure, it never really worked. My clients liked the fact that I gave advice separate from billing. Many also had strong loyalties to other billing companies who had helped them get started. With me in the billing business, all the other companies tried harder than ever to stop their clients coming to me by copying my ideas.

While it cost me no real money, the time, effort, opportunity cost, and increased competition I created by stepping on the other companies’ toes was huge.

Discover your core business, then work it for all it’s worth without being distracted by every other opportunity that comes your way, even if they seem to make perfect sense. Any business can be a great business if you focus on it 100%.

It’s amazingly easy to get distracted by other opportunities that are not your core business. Don’t do it.

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