Why niche-hopping (aka The Dilettante Syndrome) will derail your business growth

Aug 24, 2010

Every business that gets into Fun eventually falls prey to the Dilettante Syndrome. Cigar manufacturers decide that because we love their cigars, we will also buy their perfume. Perfume companies put their label on men’s shirts. Luggage companies start issuing travel guides.

And it’s not just large companies that fall into the Dilettante Syndrome: smaller, service-based businesses do it too. Successful lawyers think they should get into ship chandlering. Realtors start restaurants. Successful travel gurus start a new web site to share their social media tips. Social media gurus share their travel tips, and just about everybody thinks – gawd help us – that they must share their inane productivity tips with us all.

By itself here’s nothing in itself terribly wrong with this – it’s a natural part of growing up for every organization of whatever size, whether it’s a three-man band or major corporation – and left to itself, it will usually run its course as the business moves from late Fun into Whitewater, where the business needs to refocus around its original core competency in order to stabilize and return to growth.

The problems only start – weirdly and counter-intuitively enough – if the business actually achieves a modicum of success with one or more of these new niche-hopping sidelines. When this happens, the lure of the now successful-looking pretty new thing begins to cause a real loss of focus and a drain of resources. Success in this new field feeds the Dilettante Syndrome, leading to more niche-hopping, more (and more adventurous) sidelines, a bigger drain on time and resources, and less focus on the core business.

(At the extreme, the young business may be unfortunate enough to achieve multiple ‘sideline’ successes, at which point the Dilettante Syndrome transforms into the Icarus Syndrome, but more on that anon.)

The point? Enjoy your niche-hopping detour, but see it for what it is – muscle-flexing at the beach. Set clear limits on the time, money and resources you will devote to it, and if you’re lucky enough to see a little success with it, be prepared to either drop it or hand it off.

Your real business will thank you.

 



Put Your Business on the Fast Track to Scalable Success!