GO IT ALONE!
appears to be an equally powerful law of increasing complexity: Things that start as simple ideas and processes can magically transform into overly complex initiatives. Feature creep (the tendency to want to add more choices and more possibilities for customers) is one well-documented example of this. After they have been operating for some time, go-it-alone businesses often attempt to expand into new areas—and they lose focus. Fight that impulse. Start simple and stay simple!
The best test of simplicity versus complexity is probably your intuition. As you go forward, ask yourself how you would instinctively describe your business to someone. If you would say, “It’s really very simple. What I do is . . . ,” then you’re most likely on the right track. Conversely, if your immediate thought is There are too many moving parts here, it’s critical to stop and reassess your infrastructure.
It’s essential to look at what competitors are doing and try to predict their next moves. As you work to make your product constantly better, you should be studying competitors’ offerings regularly. You can bet they are studying yours. Make regular visits to their Web sites, buy their product or service (so long as this is ethical—in most industries, it is just fine), and understand how they are positioning themselves against you, as well as how they are cost-effectively outsourcing functions. You’ll have to work at maintaining discipline.
Sherman Eisner, the founder of A&E Home Security, says, “You can’t be an ostrich and put your head in the ground.” He regularly checks to see what competitors are doing, and he is certain that they are similarly watching him. “I am sure competitors call us—posing as potential customers—to see what services we offer and how we handle customers,” he says.
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GO IT ALONE! Copyright 2004 by Bruce Judson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.