Who’s Got The Power?

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).

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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?

maggirl

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. companiesI help numbers-oriented professionals communicate more effectivelyI 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.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the longest you’ve ever (unintentionally) gone without electricity?
  1. What’s the first power-requiring thing you did when it came back on?
  1. What is your narrow business focus?

Share your comments below!

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20 thoughts on “Who’s Got The Power?

  1. Jeremy Bromberg

    Another benefit of “claim[ing] to solve a particular problem for a particular audience” is giving that audience a reason to talk to you. When we talk in broad terms, buyers are less likely to picture themselves in that nebulous situation. Say something specific that resonates and the conversation will begin. From there the opportunity to expand the scope of service will take shape over time, assuming we do good work.

    What do you think, Michael? Is that practical or wishful thinking?

    1. We were only 14 hours without, yesterday. That’s one of the longer outages.
    2. Pump up the heat.
    3. Getting the business up and running (or rolling, as it were)

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Totally agree with that Jeremy. For me, you know you’ve heard a narrow niche when you immediately start thinking of people and/or situations where that focus could be useful. Financial planner? Nope. Financial planner for left-handed bald men named Michael? I’ve got somebody in mind!

      Reply
  2. Marie Bankuti

    All I can say is… AMEN! It’s like a magic switch gets thrown when you go from broad to narrow. People come out of the woodwork, because they know you’re talking specifically to them. It can feel scary, and even like you’re walking away from who you’ve been… but it’s so worth the shift. Thanks, Michael, for the guidance… forever grateful!

    1. Not long… been fortunate.
    2. I would think heat.
    3. I help foreign-born professionals succeed in U.S. companies!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Love your #2 Bob! I realized I could light the gas stove with a match, boil a pot of water, and was all set for some coffee yesterday morning – until I realized the coffee grinder wouldn’t work! Starbucks to the rescue as usual….

      Reply
  3. Don Kleiner

    I spend most of every October guiding out of a remote sporting camp. There is power when the generator is running and no cell service. Sort of a treat actually.

    I always look forward to having a light available when I get up in the night rather than having to fumble for my flashlight or stumble around in the dark (old guy problem, but you knew that).

    Folks vacationing in mid coast Maine looking to create great outdoor memories on an exclusive private trip.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I know what you mean about the middle of the night. It’s been kind of cool to wake in complete darkness these last two nights, but navigation is tough!

      And a great niche description, Don.

      Reply
  4. Ebuka Anichebe

    Hi Michael,

    The longest I have been without power is about 3 days. This isn’t strange especially in Nigeria where power cuts don’t necessarily require a thunderstorm or snow to occur. It just happens!

    When the power gets back on, I usually fund myself scrambling to charge my phone and power-bank (an external device to add more battery juice in case the power goes off again in 30 minutes).

    Earlier on in my career as a corporate trainer, I wanted to be known for being as useful as a Swiss Knife. So I’ll speak on almost any and every soft-skill. But now I have narrowed my focus right down to communication skills as a core and it’s corollary offshoots when applied in marketing, branding, customer service etc.

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Norm! I’m amazed you could find a generator 4 days in. We plan to wait until spring to shop around.

      Reply
  5. Karin

    Hi Michael,
    Sorry to hear about your power. We went without power for one week due to an ice storm. We installed a full house generator shortly after. It was an investment but totally worth it.

    Thanks for sharing a great newsletter, yours is one of the few I subscribe to. I caught your interview on Ed Gandia’s podcast and loved it!

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      A week?! Ouch. And yes, we are in the process of sharing information with neighbors about the generator options. Snowstorms are kind of fun, but the fun of no power wears off quickly!

      (Glad you enjoy the newsletter.)

      Reply
  6. Maya

    1. Ten days! It was due to an ice storm in Michigan. We’d just arrived with a UHaul from Texas to live closer to family, and Michigan thought that was really funny. We had a wood stove, and a candlelit Christmas at my in-laws, which sounds really fun, except we had 3 infants in the family at the time. Along with 9 adults staying in that house, mostly huddled in the warm room! Thank goodness for that wood stove – by the time we lost interest in roughing it, every generator and hotel room in the area was sold.

    2. Flush the toilets without using melted snow!

    3. I do medical illustration, and if that’s not focused enough, it’s mostly for medical device manufacturers 🙂

    Reply
    1. Michael Katz Post author

      You had me at “3 infants.” Even if I were on the surface of the sun, that would not be enough power to compensate.

      I’ve always liked your clear, concise niche, Maya!

      Reply
  7. Stacey Shipman

    1. 30 hours. Two storms ago.
    2. At that time turned heat up and made a cup of tea.
    3. I help number-oriented professionals communicate more effectively! More specifically – presentation & people skills. (Thanks for the shout out!).

    Reply
  8. Helen Rose

    1. The longest power outage I’ve experienced was the San Diego Southwest Outage on September 8, 2011 when a technician’s error shut down the lines between substations. It was the largest power outage in California history and lasted 11 hours.
    2. I’m guessing the first thing we did was turn on the air conditioning. It’s usually Indian Summer in September and often over 100 degrees.
    3. I’m a Seniors Real Estate Specialist. I help clients buy and sell homes in 55+ communities.

    Reply

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