I ran across two very interesting young guys the other week, both of whom drilled home a perennial business lesson: focus!
In a parallel life I was a police firearms instructor, and I still follow the field a bit. One young fella was a fairly new holster maker, successful enough now after only a couple years in the business that he had several employees. And this is a very crowded, extremely competitive field! He didn’t advertise, stayed low-key (I follow holster makers pretty closely and I had never heard of him), made holsters out of only one material (of several available), makes them for only two makes of pistols (of the dozens that are popular), and makes them for only one way to carry a pistol (of the possible ten or so). How’d he accomplish his success with so little exposure? 1) he focused, and 2) he makes extremely, extremely good products, and…3) he focused!
The second young man was even more specialized: he made only gun belts. (People that carry a gun need to use special, heavy-duty, load-bearing, specifically-designed belts to carry the gun in its holster.) This is a small, but crowded and competitive, market. Yet he was thriving. He also didn’t advertise, and offered only one material, two colors, and one belt width. Again: extremely good products and focus were the secrets to success.
The bigger you are, the more difficult it is to focus. And to be sure, often a wide product line is the right strategy. But focus is seldom unprofitable (although it might decrease revenues), and when you are in trouble, or starting a new product line, it is a strategy that you need a good reason to eschew.