How striving for straight A’s will cause you to fail in business (or How getting some B’s and C’s will make you a success)

School taught me a lot, and I would never encourage anyone to shirk on his or her education. However, school is a terrible model for starting a successful business.

As I explain in my post, How to start a successful business by using the 80/20 rule, school teaches us to bring 100% effort to 100% of tasks with little or no regard to their importance or weight in the overall scheme of things. In other words, the goal in school is to achieve straight A’s, no questions asked.

In addition, we are taught to identify and reinforce our weaknesses rather than to double down on our strengths. We are encouraged to use the bulk of our effort to bring up the B’s and C’s to A’s. However, once we have done enough to get that “A,” we have very little incentive to do more, and we are rarely pushed to do more.

This model of achievement makes sense in the school context. It makes us well-rounded, responsible, hard-working individuals with the ability to assess both our strengths and weaknesses.

In business, however, the path to success requires a very different approach. It almost always pays better to double down on our strengths rather than to expend the same level of energy to address our weaknesses.

This is not to suggest that you should bury your head in the sand and ignore your weaknesses. However, instead of using disproportionate effort to bring up D’s and C’s to A’s, make enough effort to prevent those weaknesses from becoming a significant liability or impediment to your success (i.e., maybe shoot for a B instead).

On the other hand, take those A’s and turn them into A++. Another way to characterize this approach is that you should strive to be great at one (or few) things rather than to be a jack-of-all-trades who is just okay at everything.

Recognize that customers have a variety of different preferences and priorities. If you’re great at one thing, you will strike a chord with a subset of your industry’s customers and they will pave the road to riches.

My experience: I succeeded by making product fulfillment my core competency

I realized early on that marketing was not my strong suit. But I also learned that back-end operations was a strength of mine. Therefore, I focused like a laser beam on product selection, availability, and fulfillment.

Customers grew to trust that anything they ordered from my website would be in stock and that it would be shipped promptly and accurately, every time. Over time, my customers became my best source of marketing, by word-of-mouth and repeat business. As a result, I was able use a strength to offset a weakness, many times over.

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