I took my youngest son to a wildlife roadshow yesterday and between the snakes and owls and all the deadly beasties, the most engaging was the humble hedgehog. We came home full of enthusiasm for building a hedgehog feeding station and while we were getting the bricks and the slab together I was inspired to write about the ‘hedgehog concept’.
Of all the possible ways that you can make money in your business, only a few will make you truly great. At least that’s the theory that Jim Collins talks about in his excellent book Good To Great.
Great companies get there by having a ‘hedgehog’ concept.
If you haven’t read the book you’re probably wondering why he isn’t talking about a ‘tiger’ or something strong, or beautiful, not just the humble hedgehog (I know I thought this before I read the book!). But what he means is this.
The ‘hedgehog’ concept comes from the parable of the Fox and the Hedgehog. Foxes know lots of small things; they rush around with new ideas trying to find ways to eat the hedgehog. Hedgehogs know one big thing and know it well – and that is how to roll up into a thorny ball to fool the fox. Jim Collins teaches us all great companies and great thinkers do one thing, they do it deliberately and with deep insight and understanding, they do it consistently and with discipline and it makes them very successful.
There aren’t actually all that many companies that make it to great according to Jim Collins – most are just good. So if you’re thinking about building a great business then do it with focus, do one great thing well. Ask yourself what it is that you do better than anyone else.
How to find your hedgehog. You can do this too by taking each of the three components of greatness:
- Passions – what you love to do, what you could do all day and talk about late into the night!
- Natural Abilities – what Collins calls genetic encoding – this is more than just what you are good at – it’s what what you can be the best in the world at. You know when you meet those people who just seem to have been born to do something – that’s what you are looking for here.
- Where you can make the Most Money – what best drives the economic engine of your business – know your profit numbers inside out and keep the focus on them to make the most money doing what you love to do.
We are usually pretty good at identifying our passions and our strengths, but some of us get stuck on the money question. How do we decide where we can make the most money in our business?
Here is a quick ‘how-to’ you can work through right now. Grab a piece of paper and make a start:
- If you are already in business then make a list of all the things that you do that make you money. What products or services do you deliver? Which ones are the most profitable? (remember profits is not the same as income).
If you are new to business then make a list of all the things you could do that would make you money.
If you are struggling to come up with a list then just note down as many items as you can and every day for the next week add at least one more way to make money onto your list.
Ask your friends or family or colleagues what they think. Do you have any trusted advisers you can turn to for ideas? Someone else might come up with some great new perspectives.
Meditate on the list – take a walk or a bath, or just some time to yourself to ‘switch off’ (always my best creative time!).
Now compare what you have on this list to your strengths and passions and see where they intersect.
Which of possibilities excites you most?
This should give you a pretty small short list of things to work on!
If you integrate your strengths and passions, your experience and values AND a solid profit model then have the foundation of an incredibly successful business.
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