How My iPod Touch Reminded Me of “The Most Important Business Maxim”

For years I struggled with music players. I bought cheap MP3 players, and I bought cell phones that I thought would be good all-in-one solutions for music, texting, calling and so forth.

Recently, I broke down and bought an iPod Touch… and it makes me a little sad. I’ve wasted a lot of time struggling with cruddy software interfaces, inane syncing schemes and just plain dumbness of design.

Yes, Apple products are good. No surprise here, and that’s not what this article is about.

This article is about specialization and why it makes sense for your business. You see, I bought the iTouch because I wanted a product from a company that specializes in the music experience. It comes with a lot of other cool stuff – like wi-fi, which I love. Yet, it’s the music experience that I’m after. Yes, I know I could have bought an iPhone and added mobile phone capability, but I don’t like touch screens for texting. So I’m keeping my cell phone separate from my music/game toy for the time being. When Apple comes out with a nice chicklet keyboard iPhone, I’ll be the first one in line.

Anyway, this discussion brings me to the following maxim: Don’t buy generalist products, and don’t be a generalist producer.

I wanted the right music player, and I finally bought it. If you want good chocolate, get it from the company that breathes and bleeds chocolate – the one that obsesses over cocoa, not coffee or nuts or some other diversion. If you want a good wine recommendation, get it from a proven expert.

In business, this is imperative. If you want a good graphic artist, buy services from someone with experience in your particular industry. If you want a good writer, get one who knows your turf.

If you go to the agency that says yes to everyone, regardless of their experience with the project or industry, you’re going to get a generalist solution and perhaps something worse. You’ll get a provider that’s ok at a bunch of stuff but not really good at any particular thing. It reminds me of the Nike Trainers when they first came out. It was the shoe that was ok for a handful of sports but not really exceptional for any specific sport. Yuck – in short.

If you keep this in mind when you’re buying and selling, you’ll be in good shape. It’s particularly relevant when you’re building your career. Don’t try to be the best at everything. You’ll end up with fewer customers, lower pricing and poorer performance.