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What is your middle name? By Chris Day
 
The television programme “So who do you think you are?” has a lot to answer for. By highlighting the search, by various celebrities and public figures, to find their roots and origins, thousands of people have started to follow in their footsteps. With many parish records and the national registers of births, marriages and deaths being accessible online, it has never been easier to sit at home and trace back your ancestors. One of the interesting aspects of this is the origins of family names. The further back you go, the more it shows that surnames become linked to the profession of the individual. As it was common for a son to go into the same profession as his father, the same name became passed down to the subsequent generations.
 
Today, it is interesting to see life going full circle and this trend returning, as people seek to be known for the service or product they supply. A search through the business networking site www.ecademy.com shows many people adding in a new middle name, usually in quotation marks, to reflect their business. For example, Jim Blogs becomes Jim “the insurance man” Blogs or John Smith becomes John “Mr Motivator” Smith. What we do seems to be as important as who we are.
 
When you are in business for yourself, a trend which we are going to see much more of during the current financial turmoil, then the advantage of your name being closely associated with your product or service, is obvious. So what do people think of when they think of you? In their eyes are you the “Aloe Vera” man or the “Home Shopping catalogue” lady? Or do they not associate you with one particular thing? In these days many people are “in” to lots of different things in order to spread their bets. As a result they are not known for any one particular thing. The trouble in doing a number of different things is that it is difficult to do any one of them to the best level that you are capable of. You can never give of your absolute best, without total focus. As a wise man once said, “When you try to chase two rabbits, you will catch neither of them.”
 
Take a lesson from big business. When you think of the big household names, like WH Smiths, BP, or B&Q you have no doubt or confusion about what they do. Successful companies are the ones with a clear focus, a clear offering and a simple message. More importantly, when you need that particular product or service you are likely to think of them first.
 
Rather than doing too many things, the secret is to do one thing very well. So well, in fact, that it becomes synonymous with you. People think of you first when they think of a mobile car service, a guttering repair, a website design or whatever it is that you offer. In their eyes, you have become a brand.
 
No matter what your business is, this is what you should be aiming at. You need to “own” your niche. You need to get that new “middle name” which sets you apart as the expert. I believe people buy people before they buy a product or service. When they have a choice of supplier, why should they choose you? By being the best you can be in your chosen sector, and giving it total focus, you will succeed where others, less committed, fall by the wayside.
 
As all of us come to terms with the new world that is emerging out there post the credit crunch, there are some trends which are emerging that should give us an insight into which direction to go.
 
One of these is the fact that we can rely on nobody but ourselves. With established businesses in every sector experiencing challenges, and with the resultant downsizing and redundancies affecting thousands, there is no job that can be relied upon in the long term. It has been the case for the past few decades that there are no longer any jobs for life. Many people now expect to have a succession of jobs over their lifetime. So where can you find any security for the future? The only thing we have any control over is ourselves, and we are all capable of achieving amazing things, given the motivation, the opportunity, the desire and the application.
 
When you look around you at those people in business who are weathering the current storm, it is easy to think, “They’ve been lucky!” But have they? In my book, the definition of “Luck” is when “Preparation meets Opportunity.” How often have you been unprepared when opportunity came along, and you missed out?
 
Some people think they need to wait for the perfect business opportunity before acting. As the Chinese proverb says “Man wait with mouth open on side of hill for long time before roast duck fly in.” It is not about the opportunity, it is about you, and whether you act on it or not. You will never make a penny by not acting. You can make a bigger success from an average business opportunity by acting with energy, enthusiasm and focus, than somebody with a better opportunity, who doesn’t have those qualities. It’s not what you’ve got, but what you do with it.
 
The other trend that is significant is the move towards greater specialism. Whereas in the past people were likely to have a broad range of knowledge and skills related to their specialism, now they are more likely to specialise in a far narrower aspect of it. For example, instead of a graphics artist turning their hand to designing a book, or a corporate identity or a poster, now they may well specialise in just one of those – and be really good at it.
 
So, identify your niche, or your business opportunity, then give it your total focus to the exclusion of everything else. Most of your competitors won’t. And this will see you through the credit crunch and into safer waters in the future.
 
 
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