Most business books suggest that you stick to your core competency, and reject any offer that falls outside of your scope of services.
Have laser focus.
Narrow it down.
Stay in your lane.
The riches are in the niches.
I can certainly recount stories of when I’ve followed these mantras, and proven them to be true.
However, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge those times that swerving out of my comfort zone eventually led me to massive success in once uncharted territory.
Early in my career, I was a freelance graphic designer. Then a client hired me to design an elaborate, custom sorority jacket for her. After I furnished the design to her, she loved it, then said that she now needed me to actually make the jacket for her.
Side note: Keep in mind, at the time I knew absolutely nothing about making jackets, so this seemed completely absurd. I didn’t even know what the process was called. Stitching? Embroidery? Sewing? She may as well have been asking me to build a rocket that flies to Saturn.
I chuckled and told her NO, I don’t make the jackets, I just design them. It’s up to you to find a shop to make it for you.
She came back and said that she could not find a company to actually manufacture the jacket, and she again insisted that I do it.
Not only was there a massive knowledge gap, it was also beyond my scope of services, and quite frankly, I wasn’t that interested in making jackets. I just wanted to sell people my cool designs and leave the rest for them to figure out.
But this girl persisted and persisted. So finally, I stopped saying “NO” and said “ok, it’ll cost $200.”
Side note: I was broke and fresh out of college, so $200 was a lot of money to me at that time. Plus I knew other people who got jackets made for around $100, so I figured I could find someone to do it and I’d pocket the difference for my effort.
I kind of hoped the price would scare her off, but she paid me immediately.
Now I was forced to figure out HOW to fulfill her order.
Little did I know that was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. A big chapter.
Fast forward 17 years. My company stuff4GREEKS manufactures thousands of elaborately-designed custom sorority jackets each year. We do it all in-house, from design to production. I’ve trained dozens of other artists, and our team bring people’s visions to life.
We have several other brands, two retail stores, and we’re now in the process of franchising.
Had I kept saying NO, and never explored the HOW, none of this would have happened.
These days, I pay close attention when I find people repeatedly trying to offer me money for something, and I repeatedly say NO. Instead I ask myself HOW could I make this work and still find it enjoyable, profitable, sustainable, and scalable.
I believe this is the anatomy of a business pivot, and one of the secrets to getting the most out of life.
When have you found yourself at a crossroads between staying in your niche, and exploring new territory?
Give it a try. In your everyday vocabulary, substitute "NO" with "HOW" and see what happens.