Steven Strauss Column: Niche and Grow Rich

I would like to know what you think of this idea: I own a website devoted to horses. We get a lot of traffic and I earn a nice income from it. But I want to grow, and besides horses, my passion is dogs, so what I am thinking is adding a dog component to the site, similar to the horse part. What do you think?

Sorry, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

Of course we all want to grow our businesses, but you have to do it in a way that is organic, natural, and that blends into, rather than messes with, your brand. I’m not sure dogs and horses mix.

Example: Apple Computer is in the news these days because of the retirement of Steve Jobs. Well, one reason, a key reason, why Apple became Apple is that it and Jobs introduced products that complemented each other and seamlessly fit together – iTunes ran on the iPod and the iPod morphed into the iPhone. Apple knows what it does best and doesn’t try to do more than that. They do not try to be all things to all people (which likely would make them nothing to no one) and instead focuses on its core competencies.
Here’s how to do it wrong, and we have all seen these businesses: The Chinese restaurant that advertises “Chinese and American food.” Well, which one is it? Instead of promising to do one thing great, it’s as if they are telling the world, “We are mediocre at not one, but two things!”

Recently, I was speaking with Kyle Janssens, the Senior Brand Manager for one of my clients, Greatland, about this very idea. Greatland is a very unique business that does exactly what I am talking about. Greatland does one thing, and they do it very well: Helping small and medium businesses “with simple solutions to the complicated issue of W-2 and 1099 reporting.” As such, they have become the market leader in this niche.
Janssens explained to me that Greatland doesn’t try to be the biggest, broadest software company round, but instead, wants in fact to do and be the opposite: To be the very best at the one thing they do best. Janssens says, “We don’t try and solve all of the problems for a small business, but just one, and we do that very, very well.”

And, he says, it is a smart model for any small business.

Back in the day, there was a great book called Niche and Grow Rich, the idea being that you stand a much better chance of standing out from the crowd and being seen as something special if you specialize rather than compromise. Janssens says that there are all sorts of benefits to this seemingly counter-intuitive business model of doing more by specializing:

  • You become a big fish in a small pond. By being seen as the expert in your field, you command respect.
  • Your brand awareness grows as people will much more likely remember you if you do one thing well rather than 10 things poorly.
  • You will be able to focus your energy, efforts, and resources in one direction.

Janssens points out that this is such a great strategy for small business because it takes the typical small or medium business off of the competing-on-price Merry-go-Round and instead establishes the business as a valuable expert. “People like and pay more for experts,” points out the brand manager.

Certainly I have seen this in my own career, and I bet you have too. When I was a young lawyer, I took any and every case. Then I specialized in business and bankruptcy law, and never looked back. It was more fun and more lucrative. Similarly, when I began writing books, I started out writing whatever became available to me – political histories, ghost-writing, legal self-help, etc. but then I got this amazing gig at USA TODAY, and all I will write now is about small business. Believe you me, being called “America’s small business expert” sure beats bei

NLRB Issues Final Rule Requiring Employers Covered by the National Labor Relations Act to Notify Employees of Their Statutory Rights

On August 30, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB" or "Board") issued a final rule requiring employers subject to the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") to conspicuously post a notice in their workplace informing employees of their rights under federal labor law. The NLRB estimates that the "great majority" of small businesses in the United States will be required to comply with its notice posting requirement. The notice must be posted by November 13, 2011, and, according to the NLRB, is intended "to increase knowledge of the NLRA among employees, to better enable the exercise of rights under the statute, and to promote statutory compliance by employers and unions." Since political subdivisions and states are not subject to the NLRA, they are not obligated to post the notice. For those federal contractors who have already posted the NLRA rights notice pursuant to the U.S. Department of Labor's notice posting rule, the NLRB rule states "contractors may comply with the provisions of this part by posting the notices to employees required under the Department of Labor's notice-posting rule, 29 CFR Part 471."

The final rule has been anticipated for almost a year. In December 22, 2010, the NLRB issued a proposed rule and invited public comment. The NLRB received more than 7,000 comments in response to its proposal with a majority of the comments opposing the proposed rule, or some of its features. Many of the comments questioned whether the NLRB had statutory authority to require a workplace posting and others argued employees already had sufficient access to information about their NLRA rights through the Internet, including the NLRB website. Other comments asked the NLRB to include information in the notice advising employees who do not belong to a union but are covered by union security provisions in a collective bargaining agreement to object to the payment of full union dues. 

The NLRB refused to rescind, or make any of the suggested changes to its proposed rule after considering the comments. The NLRB stated it has "broad authority" under Section 6 of the NLRA to institute its rule and, that despite having access to NLRA rights on the Internet, only a small fraction of employees are completely aware of their statutory rights under Section 7 of the NLRA, including the right to organize, and engage in protected concerted activity to protest working conditions. As a result, the aftermath of the final rule is non-union employees will likely become more aware of their Section 7 rights to organize and protest working conditions. The only changes made to the proposed rule were very minimal, such as modifying the introduction of the notice to advise employees of their right to refrain from Section 7 activity. 

How will the new NLRB rule impact your organization? Here is a summary of its requirements, including an employer's obligations to post the notice and potential penalties for non-compliance.

How Do I Get and Post the Notice?

The NLRB will provide the notice to employers at no charge through NLRB Regional Offices, or via download from the NLRB website. The posted notice must be at least 11x17 inches in size and conspicuously posted where other notices to employees concerning personnel rules or policies are customarily posted. Typically, this means the NLRB notice can simply be posted in the workplace where other employee rights notices, such as FMLA and EEOC posters, are already on display. An employer must also take reasonable steps to ensure that the notice is not altered, defaced, covered, or otherwise rendered unreadable. In workplaces where 20 percent of workers are not proficient in English and speak another language, the employer must provide the notice in the native language the employees speak. The NLRB will prep

Today at 10 a.m. -- Hear replay of the LIVE radio show from the U.S. SBA Small Business Outreach Tour stop in Ann Arbor

SBAM’s Michael Rogers and his co-host Chris Holman were at the U.S. SBA Small Business Outreach Tour stop in Ann Arbor on Tues., Aug. 30, from noon – 2 p.m., broadcasting LIVE on Hear the replay today at 10 a.m. (repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.) Tune in to learn about the U.S. SBA tools available to help you take your small business to the next level of success, and listen to inspirational stories of success from entrepreneurs just like you.

118id moves to bigger HQ in Troy, plans 40 new jobs

The growth curve for 118id is so steep these days the Troy-based company had to move to a bigger office to accommodate the trajectory.

The eight-year-old Internet marking firm has hired a handful of people over the last year, expanding its staff to 15 employees and an intern. That's up from a dozen earlier this year, and with plans to add a lot more in the near future.

"In January our growth really started to rocket," says Mark Power, president & CEO of 118id, named after a high-performance racing fuel. "We plan to add another 40 employees by the end of this year."

Crain's Detroit Business Sept. 22 workshop focuses on finding customers

SBAM is partnering with Crain’s Second Stage and Pure Michigan to present Buy Michigan, an opportunity to learn more about procurement opportunities for your company. The event will be held Thursday Sept. 22 from 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy. Speakers include Jeff Brownlee, the State of Michigan’s Purchasing Director; John Eley Jr., Sr. Supply chain manager for DTE Energy and Cynthia Kay, owner of Cynthia Kay and Company and the immediate past chair of SBAM’s board. 

SBAM members can use the code SBAMCDB for a 10% discount off the regular $35 per person registration fee. Click here to register.

The event is planned in partnership with SBAM and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Huntington Bank is the title sponsor.

Local SBAM small business owners to meet U.S. SBA Administrator Karen Mills, Sen. Stabenow Monday at BIGGBY COFFEE in East Lansing

Mid-Michigan SBAM members, SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler, U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will hold a roundtable today at BIGGBY COFFEE in East Lansing to discuss ideas to spur small business growth in Michigan. They will be joined by BIGGBY COFFEE CEO and Co-founder Bob Fish, who is a member of SBAM’s board of directors.

BIGGBY COFFEE first opened its doors in East Lansing in March of 1995 and is one of the fastest growing coffee franchises in the Midwest. 

Business Next radio for Mon. Aug. 29: lessons of entrepreneurial success from the owner of rapidly expanding Just Baked cupcake shops in southeast Michigan

Business Next radio host Michael Rogers talks with Pam Turkin, founder and owner of the seven-store chain of Just Baked cupcake shops, and her lessons of entrepreneurial success.

Business Next is part of the new Internet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Newsweek/Daily Beast names Michigan the #1 boom state for job growth

Excerpt from the full report: "To find the 20 best states in America for job growth we considered three factors. First, a new poll and index from Gallup, which asked more than 100,000 employed people whether their companies are expanding or contracting, and provides an index score from the difference between the two; second, the change in seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, from the annual average for 2010 to the annual average to date, with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; finally, each state’s 2010 average annual income, also with BLS data. Using z-scores (a measure of each state’s performance relative to the mean), each factor was equally weighted. The first two data sets examine opinions on job creation and raw unemployment numbers, while the third takes into account how well, in general, jobs in each state tend to pay."

Business Next radio for Friday, Aug. 26: the top things every small business owner needs to know about social media.

Business Next radio host Michael Rogers talks with Michelle Corteggiano, ATI Marketing LLC, Traverse City, on the top things every small business owner needs to know about social media.

Business Next is part of the new Internet radio network. Hear great tips and ideas for growing your business on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays at 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. (Repeated at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.)

Tune in to from your PC or mobile device and get the advice you need to be a successful entrepreneur!

Missed the broadcast? Listen to the podcast or download the MP3 version at our show page.