Not dominating? Maybe it’s time to leave.


In Break From The Pack – How To Compete In A Copycat Economy, Oren Harari challenges businesses to dominate some area of their market. And if they don’t, they should leave that market.

He claims that companies that declare they intend to dominate everything wind up dominating nothing.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Yet, I’m guilty of trying to succeed in too many markets. And most of the businesses that I interact with tend to do the same. Why do we do this? Is it related to our irrational compulsion to keep options open? Or is it as a result of legacy work – just because we once did some good work in a particular space, does this mean we commit to it forever?

You might say that this is related to how large a business is or how many resources we have available. And this is somewhat true. Bigger businesses can afford to play in multiple markets but it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Jack Welch, in his time as GE CEO, famously introduced the #1 or #2 rule (if we’re not #1 or #2 in the market, then we get out of that business). And I can’t think of many companies that are larger or more diverse than GE.

Harari outlines seven steps to dominating and the one that resonates strongest with me is ‘Be a Laser, Not a Floorlamp’. How many of us are trying to spread our focus too wide – trying to illuminate the entire floor instead of focusing on a particular spot?

We spend a lot of time telling the market what it is we do. Maybe we should be thinking more about what we DON’T do. Figure out where you are not dominant, or are unlikely ever to be dominant. Ask yourself the question ‘am I better off leaving this market behind?’ And then tell the market. Here’s what we do, we’re focused and you need to hear our story. Here’s what we don’t do, we suggest you talk to others that will help you.

Do you want to be dominant? Then, maybe the first question you need to answer is ‘what market should I leave?’

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