How to Kill Your Successful Business In Five Easy Steps: Step 2

For those just joining us, this is a series. There’s a series of links at the bottom of this post, so you can start at the beginning if you like.

Step 2: Be Irrational About Diversification

A week or so later, word came down that the top that the XP Office tutorial was to be set aside, and instead I was to think up a new project. There were all kinds of big project proposals being pitched –including one to the US government, to make their websites “accessible” as per a legal mandate of around that time. In retrospect, I see it now as floundering, not as diversification: they’d pretty much sold all the original product lines they could, but there wasn’t a clear vision, or serious research, devoted to finding an adjacent niche they could expand into. It was the corporate equivalent of get-rich-quick schemes.

Well, I tried, at least, to find an adjacent niche. I talked with the visually impaired people in the office, and looked at one of the things I’d been asked to do a few times around that time — do up someone’s resume — and a little while later, I was writing up a tutorial on how to write a killer resume. It was designed for the visually impaired, the software set up to grab the input from the user and then lay it out in a perfect-looking resume, using some kind of Word Template or something. It would also help in writing a unique cover letter for the job, and index past versions of cover letters and resumes for sampling and rewriting into new ones.

I actually was around long enough to basically complete the tutorial. I edited it into shape, and it was close to done when things started to get a little hairy. I showed the text to my boss, who reacted in shock.

“This isn’t what I asked you to write!” she said.

“Yes it is. See right here, on the project proposal? I followed the outline exactly.”

And I had, but I was told it was too focused on helping the user understand how to write a good resume, and not focused enough on simply gathering the information and formatting it. My proposal had made this shift in style clear, but I guess they hadn’t realized what it meant till they saw the script. So… back to the drawing board.

And then, pretty soon after that as I remember it, and without much warning, it suddenly was revealed to us that the company was financial trouble.

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2 thoughts on “How to Kill Your Successful Business In Five Easy Steps: Step 2

  1. re: Following the proposal, then hearing that this is not what they wanted:

    This happens to me all the time when I’m working with some government agencies. What does that say about them? :)

    Also, when drafting a proposal for work with government, I (or my teammates) often throw in everything, including the kitchen sink, so we’ll see what sticks. What does that say about me? :)

  2. Ha,

    Government agencies — it tells us they don’t actually know what they want?

    And as for what kitchen-sinking your proposals tells us about you, it looks like an adaptation to working with people who don’t know what they want. :)

    Huh, which by the way is also exactly how hakwon teaching seems to work. Giving the consumers what they want is hard when they don’t know what they really want. (Learn to fake their way through a TOEIC exam? Actually get better at conversation? Have fun and be entertained? Make a new circle of friends? Feel like one is doing something serious in terms of working to improve one’s English? All these are different consumer demands, and each must be met in a different way. Huh…

    The killer is when you pull out the proposal and say, “See? I followed this exactly, and this is the document you approved!” Then it’s all awkward and suddenly you’re not the screw-up, they are… and you’re suddenly out of trouble for a while again.

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