Fourth in a series of posts relating the findings and concepts of “Good to Great” to The Introvert Entrepreneur.
The fifth chapter in Good to Greatopens with a story of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox is quick and cunning, moving from place to place with seemingly little foresight. The hedgehog, in contrast, is slow and pokey, “minding his own business.” The hedgehog consistently outsmarts the fox, because while the fox has all sorts of tricks up its sleeve, the hedgehog does one thing very well: it rolls up into a prickly ball and dares the fox to touch it.
Collins has taken this story and expanded it into a principle that separates good companies from great companies. The hedgehog companies were focused; the foxy companies were scattered.
Out of this came “The Hedgehog Concept.” This was a unifying concept that was defined by the answers to three key questions, or Three Circles:
These questions, and this concept, are not only applicable to larger companies with millions at stake; they are also relevant to the solopreneur who is asking that critical question, “What’s my niche?”
Determining a niche – or a target market, ideal customer or the center of your brand bull’s-eye – is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do to break away from the good pack and enter the realm of great.
Without a niche, your business is like the fox in our story: chasing after bright shiny objects that sometimes turn into prickly messes.
With a niche, you’re operating like a hedgehog: sharp, focused and sticking to that “one big thing” that you do best.
In addition to the Hedgehog Concept being applicable to finding one’s niche, its promise is good news for the Introvert Entrepreneur. Discovering and implementing your Hedgehog Concept requires depth over breadth. It comes out of reflection, curiosity, debate and commitment. Sticking to your Hedgehog Concept means you are able to filter out and remove the bright shiny objects and focus on what you do best. All of these requirements tap into natural introvert strengths. We can cut through the noise and go deep.
Whether or not you’ve determined your niche (and this applies to entrepreneurs as well as employees in traditional workplaces; the Hedgehog concept can help you explore potential careers or figure out your personal brand), the Three Circles are a powerful filter to put your business through:
What you can (and cannot) be the best in the world at.
This is something you feel in your bones. It’s discerned by looking closely at your strengths, and determining what you CAN do, not what you SHOULD do. Being “good enough” to make money or attract clients isn’t going to get you there. Look at what you can potentially be or do better than anyone else. Avoid the “curse of competence”; embrace what you feel born to do.
What you are deeply passionate about.
This doesn’t mean, “I like it” or “It’s OK” or “I could live with it.” This is “I’m on fire about it!” It’s about what you’re going to be eating, sleeping and breathing…writing about, speaking about, facilitating, becoming a go-to expert. An important point Collins’ raises is “This doesn’t mean, however, that you have to be passionate about the mechanics of the business per se… The passion circle can be focused equally on what the company stands for.” I may not be passionate about the logistics of client scheduling and tracking… but I am passionate about what it supports: introverts living empowered, authentic lives.
What drives your economic engine.
For the companies studied in Good to Great, this usually boiled down to one “economic denominator.” For the entrepreneur, it translates as “profit per X” or “cash flow per X.” The question to ask is “If you could pick one and only one ratio to systematically increase over time, what X would have the greatest and most sustainable impact on your economic engine?” Notice that word “sustainable.” This is not about fast cash or quick profit. And it’s not about growth for growth’s sake. Identify your bread-and-butter, or the “hand that feeds you,” and make it as sustainable and solid as possible.
Your Hedgehog Concept lies at the intersection of these three circles and is the idea that fulfills each of these criterion. When this filter is applied, your model is based on a deep-seated knowing of what’s possible and sustainable, rather than what will feed your ego (and we all have egos!). Living your Hedgehog Concept is a long-term commitment. Revealing your Concept is a process, not a to-do list or one-time event. It will take time in reflection and deep conversation. Lucky for us introverts, we love to do both.
Laila Atallah says
Love this, Beth! I love the sustainability idea here, the intersection of these essential three areas and, mostly, the permission to go slow. Ahhhh.
Beth Buelow, ACC says
Laila, thanks for reading and commenting. I, too, love the clarity of this model. I see it as a business litmus test – you can run any decision against these three areas and clearly see where there's alignment and where there's disconnect (that is, unless you're blinded by bright shiny objects, as I wrote about today!). And I'm totally with you on appreciating the space to goooo sloooowww. Crawl, walk, run.