It would be obnoxiously first world-centric of me to complain too loudly about the past 36 hours.
Yes, we have been (and continue to be) without power since the big snow storm hit the Northeast Wednesday night.
And yes, that outage has prevented us from refrigerating our food, heating our house, and watching the latest episode of “This Is Us” that I recorded on Tuesday night (no spoilers, please).
But at this point, at least, I’m still classifying all of it as “an inconvenience.”
That said, I have been paying close attention to the power restoration progress in my area.
As of this writing, 80% of my town (Upton, Massachusetts) is out.
In neighboring Hopkinton, where my office is located, there is a 56% outage.
So, which is better?
Is a high outage percentage good because it means getting things fixed will be a high priority for those in charge?
Or is a low outage percentage good because it means the situation is less severe and they are making progress?
The answer is I really don’t know.
And, if I view the question strictly from my own selfish vantage point, I really don’t care.
I have one house in Upton and one office in Hopkinton.
The overall percentage in each town – high or low – may matter to the people reporting the news, but it doesn’t matter to me. My electrical experience in the specific locations I care about is binary; the power is either on or off.
As my dad used to quip: “When you’re out of work, the unemployment rate is one hundred percent.”
The big picture is sometimes the wrong picture
Many solo professionals are overly concerned with market size. Here, too, these are knowable numbers. But, like overall power restoration stats in a given town, they don’t much matter to you and me as individuals.
Here’s what I mean.
Just yesterday, I was talking to a prospective client about working together. At the moment, he’s a “leadership coach.”
I said: “That’s fine, but you see those bazillion people over there? They are too. If you want to stand out and be remembered, you need to narrow that down. A lot.”
His response: “But I can help all kinds of companies with all kinds of leadership-related challenges. I don’t want to limit myself.”
I understand. At first glance, narrowing may feel counterproductive.
When you narrow your focus, you reduce the size of the potential market and, therefore, the number of people and companies who could hire you.
The thing is, getting hired is not a lottery; it’s not about how many tickets you are holding. Rather, it’s about someone believing that you are the best option out of all the choices available.
Getting hired is a winner take all game and coming in second is no better than coming in dead last.
As a solo – someone who can serve only a teeny, tiny slice of the market – it quickly makes no difference how large the market is. Whether there are 5,000 potential clients or five million, beyond a certain point, the depth of the ocean is irrelevant.
Expanding the size of the market by offering a broad range of services to a broad range of people may put you in the theoretical running for more work, but it won’t bring you more clients.
Narrowing your focus, on the other hand, will.
When you claim to solve a particular problem for a particular audience – I help foreign-born professionals succeed in U.S. companies; I help numbers-oriented professionals communicate more effectively; I solve urgent liquidity problems for small businesses – you move to the front of the line for that group of people.
Here’s the bottom line. Among the three factors that matter most in building a successful solo practice, embracing a narrow focus is number one (the other two are existing demand for what you sell and naming your company after a flightless aquatic bird).
Rather than drop back into the pack by appealing to as many people as possible, narrow your focus so that you, and only you, become the clear best option for those you can help the most.
- What is the longest you’ve ever (unintentionally) gone without electricity?
- What’s the first power-requiring thing you did when it came back on?
- What is your narrow business focus?
Share your comments below!
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