A Framework for Deciding How to Specialize

If you’d prefer, download a PDF of this article (// or listen to me read it: A strong market position comes from a decision to specialize followed by a few years of disciplined followthrough. There are 5 kinds of market positions professional services firms can cultivate, and 5 corresponding ways of specializing. But how to decide where to specialize in the first place? Some of you will land on a good specialized focus. Your intuition or naturally assertive decision making style will take you there—perhaps with some iteration along the way—without any outside help. This article is for the rest of you. Those that benefit from process and structure or at least an idea of how to approach a high-stakes decision you’ve never made before. I have a framework I use when I advise clients on this process. I’ll share that framework with you here. It’s simple enough to tackle on your own, but if you want expert, empathetic guidance applying it you might consider one of my group workshops or a private coaching engagement. First you’ll need to understand the 3 ways in which you could decide, the missionary-mercenary spectrum, and risk profile. I elaborate on this in my books (The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms and Specializing Without Failure), but this article should help you understand this framework enough to use it for your own business. The 3 Decision Approaches When deciding how to specialize, you are looking for an advantage of some kind. These advantages break down...

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Specializing With Little or No Relevant Proof

Dear generalist self-employed software developer who would like to specialize, You face multiple struggles. Deciding how to specialize is one of them. But after that decision is made, you may face an uphill battle when it comes to your credibility. What if you would like to specialize in a way that is not backed up by a lengthy track record of successful projects? In other words, what if you want to specialize in something that you have limited direct experience with? There will be a part of your mind that says to you: “You’re out of luck, buddy. Stick with the generalist thing. At least it works, and you won’t have prospects turning you down due to lack of experience.” To that part of your mind, I say: “Not so fast! There is a way, if you’ll hear me out.” (more…)

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