05.05.20163 min read

From Generalist to Specialist

I get asked for business advice from a lot of entrepreneurs in their first year or two of business. The questions run across a broad spectrum, but many of them can be resolved by effectively answering a question I ask back to them:

What’s your specialty? 

See, once you know what you’re really good at, the right customers find you. That clear knowledge and understanding of your specialty is what makes your marketing magnetic. It’s what makes your offering a real “solution” to your customer’s problems. It’s what brings you joy, satisfaction, and profit.

The problem is, most business owners in their first year or two of business don’t yet know their specialty. So, they take general work of all sorts to keep the lights on. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as the business owner recognizes the process that’s playing out in their business. In other words, as long as you realize you are trying to move from being a generalist to a specialist, as fast as possible, it’s OK to take general work. 

Here’s how the process played out over the years at Infusionsoft:

  • 2002—General technical jobs, from recovering lost data to pulling cable to writing software
  • 2003—Custom software for small businesses
  • 2004—Web-based, semi-custom software for small businesses
  • 2005 to Present—Sales and marketing automation software for small business

That’s a bit of an oversimplification in terms of the timeline, but you get the idea. We were moving from general technical work to a sales and marketing software product for a specific audience. The closer we moved to our specialty, the more fun, rewarding and efficient our business became.

The market rewards the specialist.

SBS Idea of the Day: If you’re in the early stages of your business, discover and declare your specialty, even if that “specialty” is just one step closer to what your ultimate specialty will be. If you’re not in the early stages of your business, ask yourself whether you should be further specializing.


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