What, Exactly, Does Your Business Do?

We’ve all heard of the importance of the elevator pitch.  Being able to explain your business in the time it takes to ride the elevator with someone.  Going along with my theme from yesterday, I thought I would now discuss the importance of this skill.  But then I realized that one cannot explain what their business does if they themselves do not even know.  Which is a much bigger problem in and of itself.

It seems like a no-brainer, right?  If you own or operate a business, you should know what it does (and then, of course, be able to explain it quickly and clearly).  However, so many businesses fall into the trap of trying to do too much, or trying to be everything to everyone, and then they lose sight of themselves.  They end up watering down each of their skills, which in turn, weakens their business.  And one of the main ways that it becomes weaker (other than the obvious fact that they are spreading themselves too thin) is that the business owner is no longer able to come up with an answer to the basic question of what their business does.

The other day I became aware of this very problem while driving down a fairly major road near where I live.  I noticed the sign outside a business had a very vague name on it, and I asked the person I was with if they knew what that business did.  He said they used to do one specific thing, but then they started to try to offer more and more diverse services to their clients, so they changed their name to be more all-encompassing.  The problem with that, though, is that then people like me who are randomly driving by their business have no idea what they do.

I’m not trying to say that the most important thing about a business is its name, although I do think that is very key.  However, it is the job of every company to be clear about what they do, and it should be obvious when someone drives by their physical location, or looks them up online.  A vague name or description does not send the positive message that a business owner might be going for.  They might be trying to emphasize the wide variety of different services their business provides, but people are likely to look past that and wonder about the quality of service that they would be getting compared to a company that specializes in doing one thing well.

Businesses can change their focus in order to better meet the demands of their customers, and that is definitely a good thing.  However, I would challenge every business owner, whether they’re going through a focus change or not, to step back and ask themselves the basic question, “what, exactly, does my business do?”  It’s a very useful exercise that will help you to operate your business with a clear vision and sense of purpose.  And the next time you’re in an elevator, you can thank me. ;o)