What DON’T you do?

Companies –  and start-ups in particular – spend a lot of time working through market analyses, product positioning and the like, trying  to figure out how to tell the world what it is that they do (and differentiate that from what everyone else does). It is, of course, a very worthwhile and important effort.

One thing few companies spend much time on, however, is the opposite question – what do you NOT do. Not the broad question of what you don’t do (we don’t make toasters is not very helpful), but focusing in on the gray areas between what you clearly do and clearly don’t do and deciding where you draw the line. I watch companies struggle over decisions (product extensions, sales targets, delivery methods, etc.) or get slowly pulled off track as they chase down revenue and partner opportunities that are just a little bit off track (enough to reap havoc across an engineering or delivery organization, but not enough to be clearly out of bounds).
Have the conversation first – know what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds and how to tell the difference.

  • Excellent point Seth. But it’s hard! My experience is that every time you “draw the box” and say “anything outside this box, we pass” (or the opposite exercise, which is what you’re sayinG) is when just the next day you stumble across an opportunity slightly out of bounds. When revenue is tight, you go for it, and then it’s huge distraction.
    At Comcate a big challenge for us it the tug of war between 1) pursuing the scalable vision and 2) facing the realities of keeping the business alive, which means chasing opportunities that exist, not the ones you want to exist.

  • Seth:
    I think a simple way to bridge your posting with Ben’s point is that closer a company gets to running out of capital the more open it becomes to customization, professional services and/or any other sales opportunities that might be in a gray area.

  • Eric Risley

    Thank you. Sometimes thinking about issues from a slightly different framework makes all the difference. See our thoughts at http://architectpartners.typepad.com/architect_partners_llc/2006/06/the_challenge_o.html