Can Excellence Be Scaled?

can excellence be scaled?

Chipotle’s famous simple menu.

It’s often our nature to want to be the best at everything.

If we can do many things well, we should be able to see profits. “Diversify, diversify, diversify”. Yet for whatever reason, sprawling out into multiple markets doesn’t necessarily mean success.

It’s only being the best at one thing and refining it daily that wins in the long run.

Chipotle has centered around the the simple premise that they were going to serve a very limited menu, without extra things like plates, appetizers, or deserts. Just burritos, tacos and salads with all the same (limited) ingredients. Experts believed that the limited selection would turn customers away. Oops.

Ever seen Instapaper? This simple application does one thing: saves online pages for later viewing. Even the site’s design is dead simple. Yet people love it because it only does one thing exceptionally well.

Lots of Mediocre

Successful companies figure out that they can’t compete at everything. They can only compete at a few things. It’s when they move away from the core product that they start losing market share.

Instead of focusing on being the best in the world at one tiny thing, they try to be “pretty good” at a lot of things. The only problem is that it doesn’t scale.

Not being the best causes you to loose morale. It makes it harder to get up in the morning and harder to stay motivated. It’s only those who have figured out a true niche that dominate over a long period of time.


I’m trying to find ways to free up time and energy for the things I love. It’s incredibly hard, probably because it goes against every fiber of my “I gotta be perfect at everything” mentality I’ve developed over the years. But it doesn’t scale. Trying to be the best at everything waters down what I’m best at.

But it’s still freakin’ hard. In fact, it’s totally against my nature as an entrepreneur.

So what can you quit? What can you drop that will free you up for those one or two things that you’re best at?

Photo by animakitty

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Dianne Poinski September 13, 2010, 4:34 pm

    Loved this and it was just in time. I am getting ready to make some major changes to the way I do my work and this gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for the link to Instapaper! For months I have been saving pages to read later by pasting them into an email I send myself. This will be a much better system.

  • Njabulo Wela September 13, 2010, 12:31 pm

    Not easy…thanks for a great article!

  • Judy Bradbury September 13, 2010, 10:59 am

    This article really hit home! I’ve been trying to make some decisions about where I’m going with my business and this just might be the “push” I need to make me focus!

  • Rizwan Javaid September 13, 2010, 8:46 am

    Being a jack of all trades and master of none has definitely helped me in certain jobs but I agree that it is time to specialize and focus on a particular skill. Trust me it is very hard to focus on just one thing when you are interested in so many. I will keep trying though. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Njabulo Wela September 13, 2010, 8:35 am

    Well. Thought provoking, to say the least. I’m a multi-tasker of note (music, web design, web development, art, sport) and pretty decent in all of the above, but have not really become an expert at any of these. Looks like I may have to change tack completely.

    • glen September 13, 2010, 8:47 am

      I hear ya. It’s also hard to determine what’s good for business and what’s good for the soul, so to speak. Sometimes the tradeoff of being excellent isn’t worth dropping the things that fill our tanks.

      Eh, anyway. It’s making me think :)