“Indiscriminate action is a form of laziness.” – Tim Ferris
We’re taught early on in our careers to try & make people happy. When customers approach us and ask if we can help, we almost instinctively say “yes”. We’re paranoid about customers going somewhere else, so we agree to do whatever they want or need. We just assume we’ll figure out the details later.
One of the problems is that the things they want or need might not be things we really can do. How often have you been approached by a customer asking for help, and you agree to do it, and when the conversation is over and you’re headed back to the office you find yourself thinking, “How in the world are we going to do that?” We’ve all been in that situation, and some organizations seem to be in that situation on a daily basis.
The reality is that the most successful businesses know exactly what they do well, and they do it. Perhaps more importantly, they know exactly what they don’t do well, and they don’t do it. They don’t try to be everything to everyone and they don’t try and meet every single need every customer could ever possibly have. They know who they are and they stick to that every day.
Before you point out the obvious, no, I’m not suggesting that we never have to evolve for our customers. I’m not suggesting that if customers in the industry in which you work keep needing the same thing over and over again that you may not need to adapt. Certainly, if we don’t provide value to our customers we won’t exist, and that value can and does change over time, and we have to change with it.
My point is that those changes should be strategic. If you’re going to offer to solve a certain problem for your customers, then you should really be committed to solving it. You need people who are passionate about solving that problem, who are dedicated to becoming experts on solving that problem, who are committed to providing solutions to that problem. You need to solve problems that are a fit for you. If your customers need something that isn’t a fit for you, then either help them find somebody that is a fit, or be OK with that customer going somewhere else.
Think about what you’re doing for your customers this week. How much of it is stuff you’re really good at, stuff you’re really passionate about, stuff that fits your identity? And how much of it is stuff that feels like a constant struggle? Those constant struggle kinds of things take up so much time and energy that the areas in which we excel suffer.
Make the effort to be particular about what you do. It might scare you at first, but it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. Get to work.