In this competitive environment where everyone wants to be “Number One” at whatever they do or whatever they sell, it’s a risky strategy to focus on a single product or service when that means potentially restricting your sales and income. With “the sky’s the limit” mentality of increased sales, more profit and growth, why would you want to limit yourself to a very specific niche or a very precise audience?
So you can focus on what you do and then do it well.
One of my favorite “single focus” companies is In-N-Out Burger. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s a fast food burger joint out west that has perfected the art of “doing what you’re good at.” They’ve been around for 70 years. Their menu consists of burgers, fries, and drinks. That’s it. No salads. No chicken nuggets. No wraps. (But they do offer a grilled cheese sandwich.) They make burgers, and they do it well. Since my parents live in southern California, I’ve had my share of In-N-Out Burgers over the years. And there’s always a line. Whether you’re there in the middle of the afternoon or well after the dinner hour, there’s a line. But it moves. And it moves fast. Each worker has their specific job as they move through their choreography of duties in the kitchen. The fry guy makes the fries. That’s it. The burger girl makes the burgers. That’s it. They’re fast and quick and personally, I’ve never had an incorrect order. In-N-Out Burger focuses on ONE thing – burgers. And they do it well.
When you hear the name Rolex, you probably think quality timepieces. Rolex makes watches. Since 1905. That’s it. That’s all they make, that’s all they’ve ever made, and they do it well. Watches. No jewelry. No bracelets. No cuff links. Just watches. And their product has stood the test of time. They’ve fine-tuned the skilled art of making watches, and they have developed cutting edge advancements along the way. Rolex created the first waterproof watch. And Rolex invented and patented the world’s first self-winding mechanism, used in watches to this day. The company focused on creating specialty timepieces, and that’s all they’ve done for over a hundred years. Could they leverage their brand and make other products that people would buy simply because it had the Rolex name? Probably. Would people buy them? Probably. Could they generate more sales? Probably. And more profit? Probably. Will they do it? Probably not. They found what they were good at and they stuck to it. Just watches.
I want to remind credit unions (especially the little guys) of this message. You can’t be everything to everyone, and you don’t have to. You can be successful in your own way. Focus on what you do well. And develop that. We work with several small credit unions, and they hold their own in this very competitive financial industry. Simply because they’ve identified what they do well, and they focus on that.
We work with a small school credit union (about $7.5 million in assets), and they have very limited services. This credit union has a pretty good car loan portfolio. Word around the school system is this is the place to get your car loan. People join the credit union just to get a car loan. I was facilitating a strategic planning session with the Board of Directors a few years back, and a couple of Board members were insistent that we promote Checking Accounts. However, this credit union didn’t have Online Banking or Online Bill Pay at the time. When I asked why they thought their members would want a Checking Account from their credit union without those critical services, the best answer I got (after a 20-minute discussion) was “because we want to be their Primary Financial Institution.” Someone heard the “PFI” buzzword and wanted to act on it. I tried to get them to understand that their marketing dollars wouldn’t go very far promoting a Checking Account that’s missing critical technology. We discussed how they should position the credit union to focus on their strength (car loans) and not necessarily on their weakness (limited technology.) What I eventually helped them realize was that they should focus on what they did well and continue to build their brand as the best darn car loan option out there.
We can’t be everything to everyone. Nor should we try to. Many businesses (including a majority of the larger credit unions) do have the resources to be able to cross multiple channels and be many things to many people. But some companies (and credit unions) might do better to focus on what they do well. That doesn’t mean they have to limit their products and services. It just means they should identify what makes them great and focus on that. No distractions. No wasted time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Almost every business can find their place in the market, develop it, fine-tune it, focus on it, and succeed with it.
Even McDonald’s knows they can’t be everything to everyone. Though they’ve tried. They launched McSpaghetti in the late 70s and McPizza in the early 90s. But even the golden arches know their limits.
Which is the reason we don’t eat McSushi.