In August every year, Weatherby Lake hosts the Jeremey Katzenberger Memorial Triathlon, an event honoring a fallen Army Ranger who grew up here. In yesterday’s planning meeting for the 2022 event, the chairwoman suggested limiting participants to 200 again this year, as we had done through COVID. In the previous ten annual races, we had hosted almost 300 participants and measured our success on how many racers our event could attract.

“Why?” I asked. “COVID is over; why are we sticking with a COVID-driven limitation?” As we approached 300 participants, the team observed that problems emerged—parking, race traffic control, congestion in the transition area, and even pre-maturely running out of free beer! In the last two years, the race was safer, more intimate, and had higher satisfaction for participants. And, our contribution to Sua Sponte Foundation, the race’s beneficiary, was $5,000 higher in 2021 than any previous year!

Quality over quantity.

Bottom line over top line.

Recognizing and staying in your wheelhouse.

Delivering on your promise.

Living your mission statement.

These terms flooded my brain as I left the meeting. In the past months, I have seen many examples of business leaders rethinking their approach to their market.

    • My favorite French restaurant is now open Wednesday through Saturday. The owners decided that selectively being open on their busiest nights enabled them to be involved in operations personally, minimize the effect of labor shortages while maximizing profits, and balance their home life with two young daughters
    • A Construction company, continuously analyzes job profitability, manageability, and customer satisfaction. They now only bid on projects that meet certain criteria and adjusted their growth plans to find more projects in their sweet spot and fewer “churn & burn” projects.
    • A manufacturing company exiting large box national chain stores in favor of serving individual professionals who depend on their products more reliably and profitably.

To many of us, turning down sales is counter-intuitive. Heck, it’s almost communist! Sales have been the biggest hurdle for our businesses in the past. Bringing in the big deal was cause for celebration. And growing that top line was everything! “If I can just make that sale, I’ll figure out how to deliver!” has been our mantra for growth. Bigger is better, right?

With today’s labor shortages, supply chain issues, and unstable commodity prices, this strategy disappoints more customers than it pleases. My friend, who leads a multi-billion dollar steel company said that even they are being very selective about the products they sell and the orders they take. “our on-time delivery stats sunk from 90% to 20% in the last year. We had to reassess our capabilities and choke points, and redesign our business around what we do best.”

We have seen many changes in the business landscape in the past couple of years. Is this new selective approach here to stay, or just a reaction to current business conditions? No one knows, but perhaps it’s time to have a look at your business through a different lens.