Companies – and start-ups in particular – spend a lot of time working through market analyses, product positioning and the like, trying to figure out how to tell the world what it is that they do (and differentiate that from what everyone else does). It is, of course, a very worthwhile and important effort.
One thing few companies spend much time on, however, is the opposite question – what do you NOT do. Not the broad question of what you don’t do (we don’t make toasters is not very helpful), but focusing in on the gray areas between what you clearly do and clearly don’t do and deciding where you draw the line. I watch companies struggle over decisions (product extensions, sales targets, delivery methods, etc.) or get slowly pulled off track as they chase down revenue and partner opportunities that are just a little bit off track (enough to reap havoc across an engineering or delivery organization, but not enough to be clearly out of bounds).
Have the conversation first – know what’s in bounds and what’s out of bounds and how to tell the difference.