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The Dangers of Shiny Things

Written by Ben Berman on December 26, 2019

Leadership Core Focus Visionary

business distractionsThere’s a term to describe tempting opportunities outside of an organization’s core competencies: “Shiny Things.” 

Like sparkling diamonds or the flashing lights of fame, these opportunities beckon. Shiny things lure even the most rational leadership teams into poor strategic choices with real implications. When confronted with a new opportunity -- a shiny thing -- you’ll need to ask if it is a “core” or is it a “lure”

Let me illustrate by sharing an experience I had with a company implementing EOS® whose leader is an excitable, passionate Visionary.

Killing It In Your Niche

As fine art publishers, this particular client specialized in licensed fine art featuring many characters that would be recognized by virtually anyone on the planet. 

If you are having trouble picturing their products, they specialized in a mix of nostalgia and mastery. Imagine an original painting of Mickey Mouse that retails for more than $10,000. 

This company had accurately captured its niche: fun, contemporary art that featured characters even casual fans loved. With a tight focus, the company was extremely profitable and sales growth was steady year-to-year.

When Shiny Dollar Signs Come Calling

The Visionary leader loved classic art and dreamed of the appeal of selling Picasso, Andy Warhol, and other recognizable “traditional” fine artists. Consider why this seemed so exciting to him for a moment... 

There are many pieces of classic fine art that fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars at once. Big dollar sales numbers are always tempting, especially to a thriving business at the lower end of a market. More money coming out of less work (in theory) sounds great!

On that note, the company figured if they could sell their core art so well, they could sell classic art at high prices, too. So the leadership team went for the shiny thing. As they considered a move into classic art sales, the dollar signs sparkled right in front of them.

It is important to note this slight change of direction. They did not abandon their core entirely. Prior to this point, EOS implementation enabled the company to focus 100% of their marketing materials around their central brand. They had graduated from working on achieving traction and were independent at this point.

Few business operators would be stupid enough to abandon a successful track entirely. To sell classic art, however, they made a change. 

A portion of the company’s marketing materials adopted a more classic style, away from the fun, casual brand they had worked so hard to develop.

Their meetings began to push the new art more and more. The sales staff got daily reminders to focus on this new project straight from the Visionary’s playbook. After all, they reasoned, those prices were so high that even a few sales would make up for a slight dip in the core.

When You Stretch To Make Shiny Things Fit

Here’s what happened next...

They alienated their loyal base, entered a saturated market where they could not compete with the established galleries on branding, and spent a lot of money only to lose sales. Employees were disappointed and the Visionary was aghast. 

Your next “shiny object” project’s results may not be so catastrophic, but even a modest step in the wrong direction can be frustrating.

Whether it is a sexy deal, a product pivot, or even just a new brand initiative, a pursuit of shiny things can hurt your business.

Next Steps: 

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More Blog Posts: ← Improving Leadership With the Power of 7 | Without Vision The People Perish