To Niche or Not to Niche?


To Niche or Not to Niche?

This has always been a challenge for me as I love learning about new industries and businesses but having previously taken a hit because I chose to niche, it has taken me a long time to re-embrace this concept which I know is beneficial for business success.

So, let me share with you one of my greatest business lessons, and boy did I learn the hard way!

Nearly ten years ago, I was working with the building designer industry, helping many Small Business owners not only document the knowledge of their business operations which were unfortunately still in their heads but resetting teams to improve productivity and profitability and coaching the business owners to better manage all aspects of their business.

I had never previously worked with this industry sector, but I’m an eager learner and very quickly pick up processes and industry terminology so I can document simple systems to streamline businesses. And once I started helping 1, 2, 3 business owners; word started to spread within the industry. I also met with the President of the Building Designers Association Queensland, and by building that relationship, I started writing for their magazine and speaking at their regional meetings. This opened up further opportunities in other States.

So, you could say, I was the Business Coach/Systems Consultant for building designers which was fantastic, and I was loving the work. I was meeting great business owners who were often excellent Technicians but needed some assistance (as most of us usually do) to bring the love, joy and hard facts back into managing a simple, profitable business.

And then all of a sudden … Bang! Crash! It all came tumbling down. Why?

Not because of something I had done but because the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit and the building design industry was hit very hard which meant there was no longer any money to invest in building a simple, profitable business. For many in the sector, their businesses moved from steady and thriving to survival and like many in the greater building and construction industry, sometimes very dark days.

So, what did this mean for me? Over about a month, I went from being fully booked and actually oversubscribed to no clients. Wow, what a slap in the face reality check, one which cost me financially and personally as I struggled to climb out of this hole I had dug myself.

Yep me! As much as we don’t want to admit it, even when external circumstances hit our businesses and our first reaction is usually something like, “Why me?” and “How did this happen?” When we take the time to reflect on how we got here, it often becomes clear we created this situation.

And as I created my financial and business crisis, exacerbated by the GFC, these are the three lessons I took from this business experience which you may relate to or want to avoid, so you don’t end up like me.

My three business lessons which are all entwined:

1. Don’t become complacent.

I was having a grand old time, enjoying the work and the opportunities which were coming my way from this industry sector, so much so that I never thought it would end. I thought I had found my lifelong business niche … Finally.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Sounds simple doesn’t it but so easy to do in the moment. I had put all my eggs into one industry sector and forgotten the Golden Rule of 1: Never have 1 client, income coming from 1 industry sector or source or only 1 product or service.

3. Never stop marketing.

And this is the hardest one to do, isn’t it?Because when we get busy with work, particularly if we are the business like I am, what’s the thing we stop doing because we say we’re too busy? Marketing! And we should never stop marketing. We should be marketing every single day, in a variety of ways and mediums, so we always have options available to us if one of our income streams or clients takes a hit.

It is from this experience that I used to recoil at the words ‘niche market’. But now, I can see the benefits … As long as I remember the lessons learnt.

Niches are necessary for long-term business sustainability and success because if our answer to ‘who is our ideal client?’, is ‘everyone’, then we have to get a better answer. Trying to be everything to everyone and not having clarity about who you actually want to work with and can help will ultimately cost you business.

So now I have a couple of niches: registered training organisations, and with small business owners, I work with a number of speciality industry sectors as well as new ones.

Moral of the story: 

If I’d just followed my own business lessons, then life would have been much better. But as Rod Macqueen, ex-Wallabies Coach said, “You can learn more from mistakes than you can from success.”

So, will you take heed of my lessons and avoid my mistakes or will you continue creating your own ‘why me?’ scenario business?

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