Don’t be like Jack

Most people would have heard the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”. I think there is a danger in business to overpromise and under-deliver. By trying to fulfil every challenge your client throws at you, you risk over-committing yourself big time.

Not so long ago, when I was a spritely 21 year old I worked for a large Managed Services IT firm. We had a brilliant team based on a client site full time. We look care of everything from Windows desktops to telecoms. There was a trend of having to know little about lots – Covering different systems and environments; one minute learning how to patch a phone to a switch, the next sorting out a user who couldn’t log-on to their machine. I never quite got this – We were busy doing adequate jobs up until a point, but when anything serious was encountered the whole service fell apart. We had to wait for a more senior engineer to be drafted in. The customer had to wait.

So I decided to specialise; I wanted to learn something and learn it well. I chose a system which was used in isolation – A poor little Lotus Notes application server which was simply rebooted when it went wrong. I become fully certified and complacent with Lotus Notes and if chance would have it, the client decided to swap from cc:Mail to Lotus Notes as their corporate mail platform for 7,000 users. I was the only guy on-site with the training and knowledge to undertake such a roll-out, and therefore became an instrumental cog in the whole process.

Specialising in business is an area we learnt pretty quickly. Every client appointment we went on we wanted to please, to tell the customer “yes we can” even though we couldn’t. We ended up signing up as a reseller of so many technology companies that our heads were spinning – One minute we were talking web filtering, the next security, the next email archiving. Customers became confused and so did we.

Our changing point was deciding that “less is more”. To specialise. To undertake one thing and to do it so damn well we would be renowned for it. It was almost an overnight success. Our focus changed, so did our message to the customer. They understood we were seeing them for one thing and one thing only.

How many restaurants do you visit that have such a massive menu that it takes you ten minutes to read it? How much pressure do you think the kitchen is under in having to stock, prep, and deliver such a wide selection? Do you think the quality suffers? Course it does. It’s the same in any industry. Focus on what is true to your brand and deliver with conviction, knowledge and passion.

Don’t be like Jack. Less is more.