As your business succeeds, you will think of more ideas and find more opportunities to pursue them.
Additional revenues, relationships and a broader customer base will open more doors. You will want to offer more products and features. You will want to capitalize on the opportunity before you. But should you?
Anyone who has been to New York City has walked past one of the city's classic "everything delis." The outside windows are covered with signs for pizza, sushi, Indian cuisine, salad bar, and lottery tickets. They try to do it all, and one wonders how they became so unspecialized.
I believe it was an evolution. A deli that just sold sandwiches realized that everyone within a three block radius was a likely customer -- but only if they wanted a sandwich. Proximity and foot-traffic, paired with a captive audience, introduced pizza as an alternative. Revenues increased once people who were sick of sandwiches had an alternative.
And then sushi and Chinese buffet were added to the menu. Then lottery tickets. Before you knew it, the deli had everything. But was the deli particularly good at any one thing?
As a passerby who is indecisive and just wants to grab something, the cacophony or marketing messages draw you in. However, for someone with a particular craving for, say, sushi, the frenetic identity of the NYC deli is disconcerting.
Why? Because you know that a deli with five types of cuisine cannot possibly be excellent at all of them. A sushi restaurant has a dedicated team of sushi chefs that make sushi all day. They develop an instinct for the freshness of fish and the rhythm of the roll. In contrast, a NYC deli has a team of jack-of-all-trades cooks who, regardless of how talented they are, don't have the opportunity to specialize.
NYC delis teach us a few lessons. As you seize new opportunities in your business, you do so at a cost. Of course, there are the literal costs with spreading yourself too thin or losing your focus. But there is also a perception cost. You become a little less of an "expert" in one thing as you start to focus on other things.
Your customer may also change. The customers that deeply rely on your service will always prefer working with a dedicated master over an opportunistic multi-tasker. By expanding your product offering, you may start to attract customers with less conviction -- people who know they're hungry but don't know what they want to eat. If you care about the type of customers you work with everyday, you may want to consider the ramifications of a changed perception.
We entrepreneurs are ambitious and imaginative. Our bold motivation and willingness to try new things are very helpful traits. But sometimes, the opportunity to pursue our fascinations can lead us astray. Decide whether you aspire for breadth or depth in your industry, and then act accordingly. When opportunity knocks, think twice.