A Narrow Focus Can Pay Off in Droves

Professional conferences are great places to make connections, hear about new developments in a particular field, and learn new business lessons. I was reminded of this last point just a few weeks ago when I attended a staffing industry conference in Atlanta. One morning, I ate breakfast with a former staffing company owner, Stan, who shared with me the story of his success.

Stan worked hard to build strong and enduring relationships with his clients. He avoided “get a warm body in that chair right now!” practices and instead hired only the best candidates he could find and placed them only when they were good matches for open positions. By following these (and other) best practices in the field, he laid a foundation that enabled him to deliver quality services, exceed his clients’ expectations, and build a stellar reputation.

Through those actions alone, Stan probably would have managed all right. But he realized that he needed to do more if he wanted to achieve real success . He needed to distinguish himself from his competition in order to stand out in his field. So he decided to carve out a niche for his business.

Stan grew his firm by focusing solely on hospitality staffing. His company covered just about every position that hotels and conference centers hire for. By providing top-notch service and cultivating good relationships with both his customers and his talent pool, Stan was able to establish his company as the go-to firm in its market.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how “putting all your eggs in one basket” can be a dangerous practice. For the most part, I still stand by that statement: if your company focuses only on one narrowly defined field, then it can really suffer when jobs in that area dry up. Stan, however, mitigated that risk by choosing to focus on a historically strong industry that isn’t going anywhere soon. That’s one case where “putting all your eggs in one basket” doesn’t necessarily spell disaster.

Whenever I go to a work-related conference, I always expect to encounter lots of new ideas. This time, one of the new ideas was actually a twist on an old idea—and one that made me reconsider a preconceived notion. I still think that a too-narrow focus can be detrimental to most staffing firms. But after talking with Stan extensively about his successes, I can now see how specializing in a particular industry or position can yield great benefits—as long as you choose the right field and don’t let any best practices slide.