Do one thing well

Do one thing well. What’s everyone’s opinion on this?

I know’s it’s been thrown around quite a bit and it divides a few people. In fact the last Design Stuff Cardiff, Alex Jenkins spoke about “Art Is Hard” and concluded “Do everything as well as you can”. It got me thinking about the subject and how he’s right. We should do everything as well as we can, BUT as a business we want our clients and everyone to know that we do one thing and we do it well.

We started the business with the intention to both offer our clients filming and animation. After a year it soon became apparent that we were better at and getting more work for animation. Don’t get me wrong. We were getting a fair amount of film work, but we knew that to compete with other production companies, we needed to improve our film work and invest in better camera gear. Most importantly though, our hearts weren’t in it. We always put a lot of work into our productions both filmed and animated, but there was what can only be described as little excitement around the filmed work. I always remember people saying “Why don’t you take the filmed work and outsource it? That way your still getting paid and your not limiting your business”. This did cross our minds and for a good few months we were debating whether or not it was a good idea to stop filming. This would mean turning away work and clients that we’d built up over the past few years. We were essentially cutting our business by one third.

I always remember when I first discovered the handmade Jean company hailing from West Wales, Hiut Denim. I found their year book in my local coffee shop and as soon I picked it up, I was hooked. From the front cover to the content, I really connected to what was being written about.

I immediately looked up Hiut Denim and saw a blog post on this subject of Do one thing well. It made immediate sense to me. Here’s the quote;

We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. No trying to conquer the whole world. We just do our best to conquer our bit of it. So each day we come in and make the best jeans we know how. Use the best quality denims. Cut them with an expert eye. And then let our ‘Grand Masters’ behind the sewing machines do the rest.

There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from making something well, of such superior quality that you know it is going to stand the test of time. It makes the hard work and the obsessing over each and every detail worth all the effort. That’s our reward. That’s why we stick to just making jeans. Yup, we just make jeans. That’s all folks.
— Hiut Denim

For another example, we’re going to travel back to the 90’s. Apple Inc, the most valued tech company on the planet today, was in trouble. In 1997, Apple was weeks away from running out of money, closing it’s doors and calling it a day. They made their name with computers, but at some point, they lost their way and started producing seemingly everything under the sun. Digital cameras, portable CD players, speakers, TV appliances and even a games console. None of these products helped Apple out of its rut and stock prices continued to slide. Apple was throwing lots of things against the wall in the hopes that something stuck. It wasn’t working.

In 1997, Apple bought NeXT, a company owned by former Apple founder Steve Jobs, bringing him back as CEO of the failing company. Steve Jobs realised the value of doing one thing and doing it very well. He cancelled the production of all products except personal computing. This brought Apple back to its roots. Back to what it did in the beginning. Back to what it did very well. The rest, as they say, is history. Apple has since been very selective about the products it makes. If they decide to make something, it’s only if they know they can do it very very well.

Yes, making Jeans and computers are worlds away from animation and motion graphics, but I think it’s more than the product, it’s a way of working, it’s an ethos and it works for us. We want our clients to remember us. We want our clients to come to us because we’re good at doing one thing. Going forward, we’re going to focus on doing this one thing very well. We want to obsess over each frame, each character and all the minute details in an animation or motion graphic.

We live in a busy online world, pop ups and banners appear on every webpage directing us to something exciting and new. It’s competitive online and we all want to stand out. We need a clear message for our clients, we need to strip away at the unnecessary bits. This is another reason we choose to do one thing. Hopefully our message is clear.

It was a difficult decision for us to get rid of our filming services, but it felt right, as soon as we did it we felt like our business made sense and our message would become clearer.

There’s nothing saying you can’t be good at lots of different things. We know lots of companies that have a wide variety of services and produce great work. For us though, it’s do one thing and do it well. Jack of all trades? No. We’re masters of one.

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