Monday, May 14, 2007


Every entrepreneur struggles with the problem of focus: What should my business be doing? What should it not be doing?

Build a better mousetrap and you’ll quickly be asked to produce mouse-hunt accessories, licensed disposal bags, rat poison and tiger pits. You can't possibly do it all.

Are you in the mouse business or the trapping industry? Are you in innovation, manufacturing, distribution or marketing? All you know for sure is that customers, dealmakers and would-be partners will pull you this way and that.

It’s a strong entrepreneur who can stand up to the pressure and say: “This is what we do. And only this.”

One such CEO is Mike McDerment of FreshBooks, the Toronto-based Web 2.0 invoicing service I have written about before. In a post last week on his “Fresh Thinking” blog, he makes a strong case for sticking to your knitting.

You can’t serve everyone, and we’re not going to try,” he says. Mike then cites a note from a customer who thinks FreshBooks is great, but that it should be tweaked to better serve “product sellers” – not just the service companies it has always targeted.

Most entrepreneurs hate saying “No” to a client, but McDement pulls it off. “FreshBooks was, is, and continues to be designed for service based businesses," he says.

Why stay so narrow in our focus? For one, there are millions of service-based businesses that need to spend less time managing their invoices and less time collecting their money from clients. For these businesses, FreshBooks is there. Also, by staying focused on designing solutions for businesses and business process we know intimately, we are able to design a better experience for our customers and their clients.

"Why? We know their pain…and as you will see in the coming months and years, we will develop groundbreaking ways to deliver value to service-based businesses.”

Kudos to Mike and the FreshBooks team for knowing their market and staying focused on their target. If only more entrepreneurs would do the same.

Read Mike’s full article here.


Unknown said...

It's always nice to be supported when you take a stance on something - it's not mandatory, but it's nice ;)

Thanks Rick,

- Mike

BWelford said...

This is the #1 rule that is the key to success. In fact, I like the version that says, "Focus, focus, focus." It so concentrates the mind and pours the energy and the enthusiasm into one driving force. Unfortunately it seems very hard for some people to do and they so easily widen their efforts into associated fields. It's great that it's getting emphasis here.

George Torok said...

So here lies the dilemma.

How finite to focus? Are you in the locomotive business or the transportation business?