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Focus: A Startup’s Best Friend

"We can do it" is usually associated with winning; afterall, Nike’s slogan is “just do it”. I’ve seen a lot of early stage companies embody this mentality as well – it becomes a mantra. Walk into the office of any Seed or Series A company and you’ll probably see some nod towards overcoming an impossible feat and triumphing. This mindset was a big part of our culture at first. We were getting requests for a wide range of products, many of which lay far outside our core competency. And we pursued all of them, believing that versatility equated to marketability.

This, however, came at a cost. We invested significant resources into opportunities that were misaligned with our expertise, which meant months of chasing projects that ultimately didn't convert into sustainable business. We tried to be everything to everyone. And as we quickly learned, this diluted our brand and led to operational inefficiencies.

The turning point came when we decided to pivot from a generalized approach to a more concentrated strategy. We first identified a few core verticals within our realm of expertise – and then specifically a few key products within those verticals, products that we knew we could produce efficiently and with high quality. 

This shift of focus was reflected not only in our sales & GTM team, but also in the entire organizational structure of the company: partnerships, engineering and product, project management, production and quality, customer service.

This focused approach brought several benefits:

  1. Streamlined Operations: By honing in on specific products, we could optimize our manufacturing processes, reducing production timelines and improving on-time, in-full (OTIF) delivery rates. Our facilities underwent targeted investments, enhancing our capabilities in areas that mattered most.

  2. Enhanced Brand Clarity: Tailoring our commercial materials and content to reflect our specialized offerings made our value proposition clearer to potential customers. This clarity in communication helped in attracting more qualified leads, aligned with our core competencies.

  3. Improved Sales Efficiency: Our quoting process became faster and more accurate, reflecting a deeper understanding of our production capabilities and costs. This efficiency not only expedited the sales cycle but also increased our win rates.

  4. Better Product Quality: Focusing on what we did best allowed for continuous improvement in product quality. Feedback cycles with EPD became a lot shorter and we were able to more quickly iterate, learn, refine our product scope.

  5. Clearer Market Positioning: Developing ICPs and targeting specific customer segments meant our marketing efforts were more focused and effective. We knew who our target customers were and could tailor our messaging to meet their needs. Specialization led to expertise, and expertise led to excellence.

We’re still refining our focus – and probably will be forever. What verticals do we expand into next? What products within those verticals? How do we best organize ourselves to provide the best service? When, if ever, does it make sense to pull back in a vertical? But now we have a stake in the ground, something to buoy ourselves to and from which we can adapt more efficiently to unlock every subsequent stage of growth.

The power of a “can do” mindset is in fact dangerous for startups. Instead, it’s about saying “won’t do”. In saying no to certain opportunities, you are saying yes to operational excellence, higher conversion rates and ultimately a more profitable business. 


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