Less is More (More or Less)

In our office, “focus” has become a mantra. We believe in defining things as narrowly and concisely as possible, we believe in simplicity. But clients will say, “I want potential customers to know all the services we offer!” or “We do more than the average company.” And that’s great, but it’s not helping you sell anything.

Businesses — even small businesses — are often fairly complex. After more than a decade of serving almost every type of small business you could think of, our team understands this better than most. After all, in over ten years of service to entrepreneurs all over the country, we have been witnesses to a lot of success… And a lot of failures.

One of the most common underlying causes of failure among small businesses, in our experience, is trying to do too much, trying to say too much, and trying to do it all far too quickly.

We live in a world of giant “do everything” companies, and so a less is more approach seems to fly in the face of everything we think we know about running a business.

“BigManufacturerX can sell their products to consumers AND they have a professional model, so why shouldn’t I?”

“PopularBrandY sponsors a racing team, and has special limited edition products to support that so I think that should be a goal by the end of our first year.”

But when we cite these examples, we forget what companies like these did in their early days to become a big manufacturer and a popular brand. Most successful companies start somewhere simple and grow organically.

Consider a couple of “less is more” examples from recent history:

  • Google started out only focusing on search, and have slowly expanded to be one of the most powerful enterprises out there. Even as they expand, a significant portion of their growth has been through acquisitions, and not just through expanding the Google brand itself.
  • Facebook started out as a site available exclusively for Harvard college students, and then after much success, expanded to other colleges in the area. It then launched a high school version, and one for companies, before finally opening up to everyone over 13 years of age. The exclusivity of Facebook made people want it more. (That’s human nature!) It ultimately led to the overwhelming success of Facebook.

By contrast, consider the fates of companies that tried to do too much, that built and built despite market trends suggesting that they do otherwise — companies like AOL, MySpace, Hummer.

This isn’t to suggest that unfocused companies always fail or that simple services always succeed, nothing is absolute as we know. But experience does tell us that keeping things as simple as possible often comes with benefits.