You know what it’s like when you create a startup. You experience a heady mix of fear and excitement—the thrill of the chase—not knowing what’s around the corner. Your ego blooms, and there’s a touch of forced nonchalance as you casually mention to anyone that will listen that you created an entire business from scratch and isn’t that just amazing? Like a first date, everything is exciting and filled with possibility.
But then, like the moment in a relationship when you both realise you can’t be bothered dressing up for a date and would rather order take-away and watch a movie, the momentum slows. Just a little. And you start to panic. Are you doing it right? What if you never get another customer? How will you stay motivated to get out of your pajamas in the morning? And shoes! HOW ARE YOU GOING TO AFFORD TO BUY SHOES?!
So you start saying yes. To everything. At first, you do it quietly, so you won’t have to explain to anyone else why you’re taking on a project that’s outside the focus of your business. But soon, the opportunities start piling up. Yes, business is booming. But is it where you want to be?
Without realising it, you may be cheating on your brand.
It happened to me, not too long ago. I was agreeing to opportunities that were vaguely in my area of expertise, but not really what I wanted to be known for. It didn’t sit right with me, but I ignored that voice in the back of my head and kept on going (don’t we all?). It wasn’t until someone asked me what my business was all about—what my specialty was—that I stopped and decided to recalibrate and go back to doing what I do best, and love most.
So how do you know you’re a cheater? Like any good relationship quiz, there are five signs:
- Do you seem to be taking on projects, or selling products, that are outside the scope of your business plan?
- Have you started chasing a completely different target audience without any planning or research?
- Are you telling people that your ultimate business goal is A, when you spend the majority of your time and resources on B?
- Do you tell yourself that you’ll only take on projects outside your area of focus for a short while, then keep extending the deadline?
- Do people hesitate when introducing you, because they aren’t crystal clear on exactly what you do?
It’s not easy, turning down work because it isn’t what you want your business to be known for. And of course businesses change and develop as they grow. But I believe that by sticking by your brand’s side, you will develop something far stronger in the long-term. For better or worse.
What do you think? Do startups benefit from testing the waters in lots of competing areas before finding what works? Or do you think it’s best to decide what your brand stands for, and stick with it until the end of time? I’d love to know your thoughts.