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Keep a focus on core product, service

We are helping an entrepreneur who has been in business for more than 15 years but whose revenues have lately been on a free fall. I asked him to develop a marketing plan, and he had so many problems doing so. It just baffled me that this intelligent, bright man was having so much difficulty writing a marketing plan.

Given the difficulty he was having with the marketing plan, I went back to ground zero and asked him what his mission and vision statements were. Both turned out to be so general that they were of no value. During these conversations, he showed me the company brochure, which listed 10 different, unrelated services that his company provided. I then understood why the marketing plan and other core statements were impossible for him to complete. There was no hope of having a focused message or a focused business while providing so many different services.

I asked him how he managed to get involved in all of these different areas, and he said that his clients had asked him to do additional work outside of his core strengths. In response, he went ahead and did these things and developed an expertise. He just thought the more services he offered his clients, the more business he would generate. Unfortunately, he just neglected to consider how trying to do too many things for too many different types of clients would dilute his efforts.

We spent one meeting just discussing which of the areas he was passionate about and for which there was a market. He decided to focus on business coaching. From this, it was easy for him to develop succinct vision and mission statements as well as a very good marketing plan. Once he was able to focus, the rest was simple. Without this focus, everything was just too scattered.

Now, there is nothing wrong with having multiple product lines, but having too many will cause you to lose focus. The more you lose focus, the less control you have on your business.

Most entrepreneurs are great at spotting opportunities and their natural reaction is to go after them as these windows may not be open forever. However, what each and every entrepreneur needs to remember and understand is that each new market thrust leaves less time to manage and run existing product or service lines. So instead of asking what the returns from the expansion are, the question should be what the returns from the expansion are less the loses brought about by reduced effort on existing products or services.

Now go out and make sure that you have not over-expanded your offerings so that you can stay focused on your core product or service lines.

Dr. Osteryoung, the director of outreach of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at The Florida State University, the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship and professor of finance, can be reached at