Anyone can start a business. Just as anyone can walk into a store and try on a bunch of different clothes.

If you don’t know what style and size works best for you, however, and you buy outfits at random, you’re going to walk out of that store looking pretty – well, mismatched.

It works that way in our professional lives too. If we’re not a good “fit” for our work; if our business approach is poorly matched to our strengths and to the needs of the marketplace, we’ll look like the proverbial plaid-and-stripes dresser.

I did sales for nearly two decades, and always felt out of place. Have you heard of Impostor Syndrome? Yeah – that. Turns out, even though I was somewhat successful, that I was really going against my internal wiring all along.

I’m a consultant, not a salesperson.

Introverts often feel pressured to become extroverts. Successful tactical thinkers are sometimes put into strategic roles and begin to flounder. Doers are transitioned into managers; followers are forced to become leaders. Skill sets are assumed to all be acquire-able, and personal wiring is treated as if it is infinitely malleable. It’s not.

This mis-matching isn’t just true of individuals. Businesses regularly pursue work well outside of their core competencies, sacrificing long-term purpose for short-term revenue, and often losing their identity in the process.

I fear that many times, when we end up throwing a fit, it’s because we are occupying spaces where we just don’t fit.

Everything and anything is not your target for business success. Your fit is defined by:

  • Your professional DNA
  • Your unique value-adding offering(s)
  • Opportunities or gaps in a domain you can service (client pain points)

You have a unique sweet spot as an individual or company, an offering that sets you apart. There is a very specific subset of people who will pay you well for what you uniquely offer. That’s where you fit in the market.

Think narrow. Think niche. Think about your identity, not about how to grab at whatever comes along.

Your primary job, right now, isn’t winning the next project, or snagging the next available job opening up the ladder. It’s discovering and defining your fit.

Let’s get practical. How would a business (or consultant) define its optimal fit in the marketplace? Here are some simple steps that will get you on your way:

  1. Where are there holes in the market that we might be able to fill? Is there a new category that we can create, with limited competition?
  2. Of all the things we have ever done, what has been the most excellent (for customers) and fulfilling (for us)?
  3. What’s the main thing people think of us for?
  4. With what combination of offerings/customers have we consistently been profitable?
  5. Will digging deeper with fewer customers/offerings lead to greater profitability than going wide?
  6. What niche do we have a chance of potentially dominating?
  7. What kinds of clients have been high-maintenance and/or unprofitable? Can we do without them?
  8. Where is our new business win rate highest?

By and large, any individual who has been in the workplace for a number of years, and any business that has been active in the market for a while, has all the puzzle pieces scattered about on the table. It takes some time and introspection and strategic thinking to put them together and discover the best fit.

And, once you’ve discovered your fit, then you are far more able to stand in front of potential clients and Pitch A Fit! But that’s a post for another day.

P.S. – Download Steve’s new eBook Make Yourself Clear! Six Steps to De-fogging Your Direction and Your Message.