The ability to launch and scale a startup to the next level with speed is a skill that not all entrepreneurs possess. You might ask, “What separates a lot of people from tapping into this growth?”

It’s not always investment, or even a great idea. Often it’s less direct, and for many it’s a matter of simply understanding the business they’re in.

The Core Problem

Identifying the business you’re in is really about identifying the area of your business that is most worth focusing on in relation to what you’re offering the marketplace. The companies that succeed stay in touch with the customer’s true need, rather than just focusing on what they’re currently selling off the shelf.

From Fortune 500’s to recent startups, here are a couple examples of businesses that have reoriented their core competencies, and as a result, positioned themselves for incredible growth.

Clum Creative

Size: Small business

Business they’re in: client service

For Clum Creative, a video production company in Cleveland, OH, it was about refocusing on the customer. Mike Clum, the founder of the firm, started the company by focusing his business around making the best videos he could.

“Video…how we make it will go out of style, all the equipment and processes we have will be drastically changed, and everything we do currently will be obsolete, but companies will always need organizations who know how to serve and deliver on what they say, at scale. That’s the true customer need in my space.

I can always switch products, hire different staff, but at the end of the day, we’re not in the video production business, we’re in the service business.” says founder Mike Clum.

Whether that be wrapping an entire house with wallpaper for a fortune 500 brand or simple videos for a company’s homepage; the service remains at the core for Mike and his team.

UnBounce

Size: Medium business

Business they’re in: sales optimization

Unbounce helps companies increase online conversions for their web pages through their landing page builder and overlay tool. Recently, after their launch, they started seeing extremely high customer support rates for certain customers. And while they were paying customers, they weren’t actually looking for the capabilities Unbounce provided.

Unbounce then started to refocus on customers who really needed their powerful A/B landing page testing tool, rather than entertaining those who were unsure.

“Startups have limited resources, so be sure to attract customers who really need your product so your time supporting them is well spent,” says Jason Murphy, co-founder of Unbounce. “Customers that aren’t a good fit for your company often take a lot of your time, and leave relatively soon.”

Have the guts and courage to identify your customer and be willing to turn down customers that aren’t in alignment with what you’re providing. Knowing the business you are in is equally important as knowing the business you’re not in.

Walmart

Size: Large business

Business they’re in: logistics

You can debate all day what made Walmart so successful, but at the core of its growth from day one was its ability to drive cost down and pass the savings on to the everyday American.

Underneath these cost savings was their focus on logistics and getting items to retail faster and more cost effectively than their competition.

Walmart understood that people want to spend less money, and they put themselves in the business of catering to that. By staying focused on cost savings through logistics, it made them better able to serve their customers and win over their business. So while the future of Walmart is debatable, you can’t argue with their massive results in the past.

The Big Question

So the question remains: what business are you in?

Are you focusing on all the wrong things, or are you effectively capitalizing on what the customer needs, your strengths, and answering marketplace gaps?

Whether you’re a small business like Clum Creative or a retail giant like Wal-Mart, it’s never too late to reevaluate what your market truly needs and how you’re allocating resources to deliver value to it.


Thanks for taking the time to give this read – if you have any other questions, feel free to drop a comment or reach me on Linkedin – Cheers!

Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Joel Hansen
Joel Hansen is an aspiring social entrepreneur based out of Vancouver currently working as the Director of Operations in Student Government and in External Relations as a Fundraiser Co-ordinator for Lighthouse Voyage. As a communication and strategy enthusiast, he is passionate about connecting Vancouver brands to social issues and enabling organizations to better leverage their resources to create sustainable impact. He is currently in the midst of building a small marketing consultancy group to better equip companies to engage with youth.