fruit can kill you
“Pick off the low-hanging fruit.”
This phrase (or some variation of it) inevitably creeps into hallway conversations and closed-door meetings in just about every industry. Countless CEOs buy into the practice. Why? Because it’s work that’s reasonably easy to secure that drops revenue to the bottom line.
Most start-ups do it to help gain traction and build some positive momentum. Many established companies see it as found money to help fund other initiatives. But for innovative entrepreneurs and companies, filling buckets with that low-hanging fruit will have negative long-term effects on the health of the company.
Innovators have a vision. They see something that others don’t—an opportunity no one is addressing or a problem that no one has solved—and then attack with a vengeance.
With a targeted prospect list and sales materials ready, they hit the phones, set up meetings, then go in to seal the deal. After the pitch, however, the prospect pivots the meeting slightly, saying something like: “That’s a very interesting proposition and something I think I’ll be ready to take a hard look at in six months or so, but you know what I really need right now?”
Then comes the request. The innovator knows it’s something the company could deliver because they’ve done it many times in the past. “I can take care of that for you,” he says, while proposing a price he knows is 80 percent of what the prospect would normally pay. He gets the sale and walks out happy.
This scenario plays out in several early meetings. The pitch is resonating with the audience to some degree, and while no one is buying just yet, the innovator is winning projects that fuel his business. So it’s all good, right?
That low-hanging fruit is slowly killing the dream.
With every win of a related but unintended project, the original vision is blurring. Our leader started off with an arm stretched straight out in front of him with his index finger pointing at the prize. These different assignments being tossed his way, however, requires that he extend both arms wider and wider to catch all that low-hanging fruit. Before long, he finds his arms extended out to each side and his momentum toward the original vision has stopped; in fact, he may be back-pedaling. He’s got business, but it’s not the business he intended.
Once focused on innovation, he now leads a mid-sized company capable of delivering on a wide range of assignments—a smaller version of the company he had left years prior to pursue his dream. What’s more, he has no choice but to keep grinding out of responsibility to the people he employs.
The challenge for entrepreneurs is trusting their vision. They start with all the confidence in the world, then, almost immediately, make compromises and find “smart business reasons” to justify them. We talk to so many owners and CEOs of 100-person companies who find themselves stuck on a growth plateau. They’ve stalled after a fast start and don’t know why.
They proudly tell us about their great company and how they can do absolutely everything. What they rarely do is connect the dots—a one-stop-shop will only grow so big because it will find itself in competition with so many others. When every company can do it all, prospects start making their decisions based on price and speed of service, both of which impact product quality.
Prospects play one company against the next, and the one-stop-shops battle for scraps until they sink into the “sea of same” and vanish from sight.
Focus on the Vision.
Keep that one goal in mind at all times. When presented with an opportunity, ask a simple question: “Does pursuing this opportunity move us closer or further away from the goal?” Be honest with your answer and your decision will be obvious.