One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Guillebeau, dropped a phrase recently that really stuck with me. He wrote that "you can have anything, but you can't have everything."
The point he was getting at was that it's possible for anyone to find something that they excel at. However, there is no one that excels at everything, and those that try often find out that they excel at nothing at all.
As small business owners, we're often stuck in the quandary of trying to excel at everything. We want to be a great employer. We want to turn a huge profit. We want to be great at customer service. We want to provide a great product. We want to keep up with all of our bills and all of our communications. We want to be perfectly filed and perfectly orderly with all of our documents.
Guess what? We can be anything, but we can't be everything.
At some point, we're going to fail at one of those initiatives. We're not going to be able to get everything filed and neat without providing worse service for some customers. We're not going to be able to keep our employees happy while also keeping our bottom line healthy.
Eventually, we have to choose.
What I've found is that, time and time again, a steadfast commitment to one or two central principles for your business will help everything else come along for the ride.
Do you commit to customer service? You'll not earn as much per transaction, but you have a base upon which to build a thriving business.
Do you commit to your bottom line above all else? You might not have the best reputation, but you have the ability to charge low prices and attract the bargain hunters.
Do you commit to perfect bookkeeping and filing? You might not have the energy left for promoting your business, but your business will be audit-proof and will be much easier to analyze for future success.
Do you commit to having a great workplace? Your employees will cost more, but they'll have the motivation to put out excellent work for your business.
Do you commit to having the best product of all? Your individual products will cost more, but you'll have a reputation of being the place to go when you want the best.
How do you choose what to excel at? That's where you come in. What skills do you bring to the table? What are you passionate about? What passions and skills do your employees share with you?
When you figure out what those things are, you've figured out the very thing that you have to turn your business from something that tries to do everything (but does it halfway) to a business that does something better than everyone else.
My choice of the one thing to excel at was to simply write the largest volume of high-quality personal finance material among my competitors. I might not excel in other areas, but I am known for always having something interesting to read.
In being better than everyone else at something, you've got your ticket to success.