Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love the show Shark Tank. I learn new things about business, and I feel inspired in my own small-biz journey every time I watch. I’ve also been introduced to a slew of funny and/or useful quotes from this show over the years.

Daymond John once said on the show, “Hang out with four broke guys, and you’ll be the fifth.” Funny and true! Mark Cuban is one of my favorites, probably because I recognize and appreciate a fellow sarcastic booger when I see one. If Mr. Cuban had his own show, they may well call it the “Snark Tank.” One of my favorite lessons in business came from him a few seasons ago. A guy was in the tank, pitching whatever, and it was recognized as a good product. But when he began talking about diversifying his offerings and including something quite different, Mark jumped ship. Why? He explained in four words: “You’re drowning in opportunity.”

He was right! This entrepreneur had a great idea, but couldn’t quiet the other voices in his head. “Make this, that would be awesome, have you tried this thing over here?!” He was going to sink, dabbling in all the other ideas, before his flagship product could even get traction. Mr. Cuban has said this on several episodes, and I’m not implying that it’s his original comment or quote, but it’s the first time I’d ever heard it and boy did it really sink in for me as a small business owner.

Last night I was watching a new show called “Project Runway: Fashion Startup” (basically a Shark Tank for the fashion industry) and one of the entrepreneurs was a lovely young lady with a cool, but very expensive, jewelry line. She informed the potential investors that she had the intention of creating a cheaper line to make her products more attainable. The investors worried about this move. I learned a new use for a common word when one of the female investors (I’m so sorry, for my life I can’t remember if it was Katia Beauchamp or Rebecca Minkoff) said that this was a “diffusion” of her line (diffusion defined as: “the spreading of something more widely”). Someone else told her that she should watch out for being distracted by different opportunities if her original line was doing well.

That’s when it hit me – this concept of diffusion versus distraction. As the proud owner of a multi-needle machine and a fair amount of embroidery experience, there are thousands upon thousands of projects that I theoretically could do. It seems like once a day someone tells me I should embroider this or monogram that, and I say, “Well, I don’t really do that” as I acknowledge that the time it would take to learn that new project or skill would take away from things that I make money embroidering and already do well in selling. Many of these things that people think they’re being helpful in suggesting, are distractions to me. Conversely, adding more styles of personalized baby bodysuits to my shop is a great way to diffuse my offerings while staying in line with what I am known for creating.

The exact same principles apply to my digitizing work. What kind of things am I really good at? Snap tabs, felties, and other in-the-hoop projects. What things take me a while to make, and may not feel worth the effort? Fonts and word art. Of course this is not to say that I will never create a font. I do have a couple in the works as I type this! But these are just not my wheelhouse. Logos are another thing I am not experienced with, and take me such a long time to get everything exactly as the logo, it’s not worth the money I could possibly charge for those jobs. Embroidery folks often say, “Oh, you could do a monogram font!” or “Can you do my logo?” Well, yes, I could, but for the majority of the time I have available to me, I have to stick to things I know I can do well, and fast. I can’t afford to spend ten hours on one project these days. Ask me again when my kiddos are in school!

Now.. I’m not saying that you should never branch out to a different product, or try a new digitizer or supplier. I’m simply advising you to mitigate the risks involved in any business decision by researching and thinking carefully before you branch out into uncharted territories. By all means, get creative and try a new design, project, or supply if you have the time, money, and desire. Remember to diffuse your offerings, but not to distract from your best-sellers. Maintain the style and purpose of your brand in sticking to the values and quality that you started with when you began your journey. 🙂