People often talk about the sweet spot in sports, usually golf, that place where you just seem to get everything right, but what steps can you take to find your business sweet spot?
In this article, we’ll go through three steps that can help you uncover the sweet spot and true genius zone for your business concept and brand message.
Step #1 Aligning financial & personal drivers
The way to find your business sweet spot is by looking at the intersection of what you’re good at (strengths), what you enjoy doing or learning about (interests) and what benefits others (profit).
In business, you’ll find your sweet spot is where there is perfect harmony between the things that you and/or your company does well and efficiently, and the things that the market is willing to pay for. Put another way: it’s where your target customers’ needs fit with what’s special about your product or service.
However, if we only look at aligning what you do with what the market wants, it leaves you as an individual out of the picture. What if the thing you’re doing is great from a profitability perspective but doesn’t give you a feeling of happiness or satisfaction?
With my clients, what I prefer we look at is the relationship between financial success and personal fulfilment. For any business activity to make sense, there must be a convergence of passion, talent or skills and money.
Look at it this way: if you’re working in the zone of your passion and talent/skills but have no money from that work, you have a hobby. If you have passion and money but no talent, you’ll probably fail. And if you have talent and money but no passion, you’ll soon get bored.
When starting out in a career, your goal has probably focused on learning know-how (talent) and earning an income (money). If you’re lucky, you can combine these with doing something you enjoy (passion). But a lot of our early career is serendipitous based on what subjects you study or course you take. You can end up doing a job that just isn’t that fulfilling.
Likewise in business, we end up starting a business in a field we have skills or qualifications in, not necessarily because we’re talented or passionate about it – we just follow down what can feel a predicatble path.
Later, after a decade or two, or three or four even, we find ourselves engrained doing the same job boxed in that industry and you tell people you’re an X – where X has become your professional identity and you feel locked in.
Others like me perhaps have meandered through lots of different jobs and types of work, progressed ‘up the ranks’ – have you ever wondered what to call yourself? You’ve essentially become a jack-of-all-trades and you can’t pin anything specific talent down in order to market yourself as a master-of-one.
It’s not uncommon to lose sight of our core talents and strengths let alone what we’re passionate about or what we’re all about.
I see this all the time with clients who are starting out working for themselves after years in a particular career industry or sector. If you start up on your own in business and you’re struggling to find clients or customers, perhaps you’re not pinning down a profitable niche. There’s no point being master of something the market doesn’t need anymore.
The goal in step #1 is to check that the expert area you’re working in is one your enjoy and is profitable and in good demand in the marketplace.
Step #2 Identifying your purpose & true calling
So if you’re not yet working in your genius zone, how do you hone in on that intersection between passion, talent and money and find your business sweet spot?
It’s sad to admit it, but I remember the day it occurred to me that, aside from my children who I adore and love spending time with, I couldn’t think of anything much that makes me happy any more. I was doing a lot of consulting work, so the money was fine, but my heart wasn’t really in it.
The essence of what I stood for had become very dilute and unfocused in the range of work I was doing. This really impacted on my sense of happiness. I lost my mojo, I think because my purpose, my belief in myself and what used to drive me was just missing.
What I really wanted was a sense of what I was supposed to be doing on this earth – my true calling. Time to dig deep.
Finding your true purpose or calling is actually quite a hard and difficult psychological activity. You can’t just do an exercise for an hour and think ‘oh yeh now I know what I should be doing with my life/work’. It takes time, and changes over time as new patterns become known to us.
The solution lies in professional reinvention and as my industry shifted what services it wanted and what it was prepared to pay for them. I’ve refocused and rebranded a few times over the past 12 year in my consulting practice.
The best starting place to find your business sweet spot, in my experience, it is to look back over your life and work and identify common themes, whether it’s a particular type of work you’ve done, a specific subject matter or the nature of work.
Think about what you most enjoy and what is consistently present. It may be less about you and what work you’ve done in the past, and more about a need or problem people walk around with that you continually feel remains unaddressed in the world.
For example, for me this is innovation and supporting people to do something new. Originally, I did this by managing development projects, and later through teaching, coaching, mentoring and writing.
Innovation, insights and implementation are threads running through my whole career. I know that’s a lot of words beginning with ‘I’ and there’s actually an even longer list of them – it’s a major reason why I named my online education programme i-Success!
When you find your business sweet spot, it’s often more a feeling than a knowing. It’s the high you feel when you’re doing work you’re really passionate about – you’re in a state of flow and fulfilment and it doesn’t even seem like work.
Finding your sweet spot is less about looking for one thing that fires you up and more about connecting the evidence of what you love doing and are good at. It requires a bit of cross-referencing and options-checking; eventually the pattern(s) emerge.
For me more recently, I found all the business and marketing books and videos I was drawn to were focused on the psychology and philosophy behind professional identity, probably because I’d lost mine and it was such as long road to find it back.
I believe I’m not alone, that most highly educated professionals have had this exact same problem at some point in their career or in business. You know that moment of horror when someone asks ‘what do you do’ and you freeze or come out with some lame, boring string of errs and umms.
In particular I was fascinated by everything I could read and watch on finding your purpose, clarifying your message, understanding what ‘success’ means. I’ve sifted through hundreds of ideas and produced dozens of notebooks where I’d written down key insights.
I was initially doing this for my own use, but then I’d organise them into key elements and create an article around certain ideas that others could also benefit from my research and writing about these key insights for personal and professional success.
I have now been writing about these topics for over ten years and find it fulfilling to leverage my strengths and interests to help other people start, survive and thrive in business. But for a long while, I completely overlooked this as my business sweet spot.
Too often we do ourselves a disservice and therefore the people who in fact we are capable of helping doing what we do well. Are you your own worse ambassador? Do you unwittingly give yourself negative labels and believe others who think you’re mad to go off the ‘beaten’ path?
In the book “Work Reimagined”, Richard Leider and Dave Shapiro talk about the sense of clarity and confidence to be gained by uncovering your calling, which they define as the “inner urge to give our gifts away” – love that!
Step #3 Doing work that inspires & motivates you
It’s not all about our past though. Sometimes it’s not enough to just pull out the common threads of what kind of work we’ve done before. In many cases, I’ve found people just want a new focus – something that has the potential to re-ignite your passion.
Definitely, you should also aim to draw on your existing talents and skills to be good at what you focus on helping people with. It’s counter-effective if you’re constantly learning and feeling on the back foot in a new area.
In his book ‘Louder Than Words’, Todd Henry talks about the five attributes of resonant work, i.e. work that resonates with you unique business sweet spot.
- Authenticity: Uncover the narratives that are at the core of your personal and professional identity.
- Uniqueness: Identify what makes your work distinct from that of others, and learn to creatively package and present your message.
- Consonance: Cultivate internal consistency and harmony in your work.
- Empathy: Listen to your audience’s aspirations and struggles to make your message more compelling.
- Timing: Learn how to coordinate your work with ideas that already have cultural momentum.
Identifying your sweet spot not only brings you closer to your true calling; it allows you to market with optimal efficiency, strength and profitability.
Just apply the 80:20 rule to any business, and it’s likely that 20% of customers make up 80% of the profit. What those 20% buy is your sweet spot. Depending on your industry, this may well change over time, so keep an eye on periodic shifts in the numbers.
“Money is just an echo of value,” he said. “People want to pay for valuable things, and if you understand your core message then you can deliver that message in a variety of ways, such as through coaching, live events or by even creating a mastermind group.” Dan Miller – President of 48 Days
The freedom you can achieve leveraging your expertise – trading your value not your time – has always been what drives me in business and what I love helping other consultants and coaches with.
Freedom is a really big thing with me – both financial freedom and time freedom – freedom to make my own choices about what work I do, freedom to do it when I want (within reason!), freedom to give back to others. This is why I’ve focused on innovating my business model, and where the leveraged consulting insights come from.
Surprisingly, many businesses struggle because they haven’t found or aren’t leveraging their sweet spot in terms of attracting the ideal clients / customers for what you do well, especially if you can differentiate what’s unique about why and how you do compared to your competition
This unique distinction is in fact your back story – your story becomes your brand. If you haven’t yet uncovered where you’re best work happens – i.e. your genius zone, use these five steps to find your business sweet spot:
- Identify your core competencies rather than keep adding to the type of work you do.
- Work across your strengths rather than trying to be all things to all people.
- Match your best services or products to market demand.
- Listen to what your clients/customers value most in what you do & how you do it.
- Bring these four elements together in a compeling & unique offer.