Start Out Simply

Start Out Simply

No doubt you’ve heard the term ‘core competency.’ It refers to that which a company or person does best.

The best way to build a business is to start out offering only what you do best.

Why? For a couple of reasons:

  1. It gives you one thing to focus on; to build a marketing message around.
  2. It helps you define your target market – those people who need that thing.
  3. It helps others land on who you are and what you offer.

In short, it provides clarity. It keeps you and your prospects from getting confused.

Too often small business owners try to offer everything under the sun. They think there’s value in being a one-stop shop and they’re afraid that if they don’t offer more things they’ll miss out on business.

The irony is that with too many things offered, they lose out on business because there’s no clarity. When people can’t land on what it is you do, they walk away. So, these owners end up creating the situation they were trying to avoid.

If your message is too big, it will be overwhelming. Think about how you react to feeling overwhelmed. It’s not a good feeling, is it? Don’t create that sensation for your prospective clients.

Set yourself up for success by starting out simply. Focus on the thing you do best and market that product or service to that target market. Build your business from the foundation of your core competency.

Once you’ve established your company as a solid entity, you can add products or services and develop a menu of offerings. Be sure to add things that make sense – things that go along with your core product or service.

For example, if you are offering accounting services, don’t add printing services. You may think printing is something you can do, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you should do. Now, you may think I’m being ridiculous, but I’ve seen this happen. Sometimes as oddly as my example and other times more subtly. They are equally inappropriate.

Know what you do well. Understand what you offer. As you determine what additional items to add to your product line make sure they go along with your main line. Maintain continuity with your products or services. This will help you reinforce your position in the market.

When you add the following items gradually you enhance your business in a couple of ways:

  1. Complementary services or products increases the value of your core offering.
  2. Adding items gradually provides you with additional opportunities to put your business in front of prospective clients.
  3. With more quality products or services you can expand your prospect base.

When you create a plan for growing your business include a process for developing your menu of product offerings. Take advantage of the benefits of starting with one core item and building gradually from there. When the plan makes sense to you, you can be sure it will make sense to your prospects. That wisdom will result in solid growth for your business.



Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

15 Reactions
  1. Wonderful advice! A trap I’ve noticed many new businesses fall into is trying to be all things to all people. But I’ve come to recognize that focus and finding a niche are keys to success for small businesses. Once you grow to size you can start thinking about offering all services under the sun.

  2. You’re right, YFCNG. We can never be “EVERYTHING” to “EVERYONE”. We have our own expertise that we must put our focus on.

  3. Diane,

    As much as I would like to follow your advice, think about a small business owner in her initial days of setting up business – hungry and costs piling up. She will be happy to offer services not necessarily the one thing she is really good at. What will you tell her? Once you start that way, when is it a good time to narrow down to one thing?


  4. We had to rethink some of the business services we offered at our café & business center and start to focus on the core business. We have now been sitting at the drawing board, rewriting our business plan. We are ready to open for business again in the near future, after we have found some critical pieces of the new puzzle.

  5. I used to believe that my business needed to sell a wide variety of products to be successful. After some time, I started to narrow down my offerings and focus on just a few select items. When I did that, my sales actually increased. I kick myself now because the cost of my startup could have been a lot less if I had started out with more clarity and less inventory.

  6. I have to agree with Arthur in that “We can never be “EVERYTHING” to “EVERYONE”. Very true. If you try to be a crowd pleaser, you will surely find yourself overwhelmed.

    You know what you do best. You know what your business does best. Start building around those areas of focus and you’re sure to see some success from your efforts.

  7. Diane –

    You mentioned “If your message is too big, it will be overwhelming”. I’d like to add that for small business owners if your message is too big – it just not credible. And if you are not credible, clients wont buy.

    There is power in focusing and doing a few things exceptionally well.


  8. Yes, offering ONLY what you do best can simplify matters. To your customers, you appear as a subject matter expert, and your marketing message is sharpened and focused.

    But the same principle applies to your non-customer-facing aspect of the business. Do only what you know how to do, and outsource what you don’t — the stuff like order fulfillment, payroll, bookkeeping, benefits, tech support, etc. Focusing on your core competency, your core business, allows you more focus on generating revenue.

  9. Yes focus on core products is the answer, but difficult to adhere to in early stages of some businesses. Once you have your business plan stick to it and keep to the products that you know.
    Good post and timely advice.

  10. I am a firm believer in going small to go big.
    I present to small business owners on how to grow their business.
    My new book “Get Your Business to Work” starts with the idea of finding customers.
    The most important part of growing a business is to get customers. Period!
    The problem with business owners is they think business is about doing the work versus getting the customer to buy more.
    George Hedley

  11. Hi,

    The point that Diane want to drive through is that, we should
    1) Concentrate doing what we do best
    2) Be a leader in your specialise biz
    3) It is hard to be a jack of all trade
    4) Specialization = more authority and money in future in the niche.


  12. Yes. Thanks Chris. But I just have to resent to one of your statements – being a crowd pleaser. Well, we have to so we can gain customers, I’m pretty sure you mean there crowd pleaser for a specif crowd or our target market – not to everyone. 🙂

  13. Thanks Diane for the refreshing reminder that when you stay focused, growth will come gradually on its own.

  14. What do you think with this cliche that says: the more entries you send, the more chances of winning. – ? Doesn’t it sound synonymous to the more you offer, the more you gain?

  15. yes. that’s right! focus on what you do best… think of something more that is also basing on what you did best… then growth will come gradually on its own…

    “more entries, more chances of winning” right… but but remember in the field of business, we are not taking risks for nothing… it does not mean more offerings, more sales… it is ok if you offer few things in its best than offering many things with no identity… if you have no identity, customers will probably just leave… if you have the identity, you have the authority, then you will have the core of competency, then clients will recognize you and they themselves advertise your expertise.