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In the 1930’s, Erik Homberger, a trained Montessori teacher, budding psychoanalyst and patient of Anna Freud (Sigmund’s daughter) brought his family to the United States, changed his name to Erik Erikson, and was offered a teaching position at Harvard.

While there, and while practicing child psychoanalysis, he developed his theory of the Eight Psychosocial Stages of Development. Primary among these, both for Erikson’s personal history and his teaching, was the concept of Identity vs. Confusion. Erikson postulated that this particular stage usually happened in the teen years – but also could be the dominating conflict within a person’s life if not resolved.

This state of ongoing conflict became known as having an “Identity Crisis.”

Properly played out, Erikson felt that an Identity Crisis is a time of intensive analysis and exploration of different ways of looking at oneself. That definitely sounds like adolescence.

Application for Business

But, you may be asking, what does this have to do with my small business? I’m so glad you asked! Last week, we talked about knowing what you are really selling. I.e., knowing how the product or service you provide makes people feel in order to market it better.

This week, we want to look at what “a time of intensive analysis and exploration” can look like for an entrepreneur or small business. As our fearless leader will tell you, most companies don’t know what they’re selling, who they’re selling it to or why. But that knowledge is crucial for business success. Larger companies can throw stuff on the wall to see what sticks, or spend copious amounts of money for consultants and studies. Odds are, you have neither the time nor the extra cash to try either of those options.

“If you don’t know who you are, how can you properly introduce yourself to your future customers? In truth, how can you have any real clear idea about who your future customers are if you aren’t crystal clear on who you are?”

David G. Johnson

This is where strategic work, done right, levels the playing field. Yes, you might have to invest in one or two consultants to see past your own blind spots and truly develop a strategy. And, of course, we would be happy to help you with that. But the more work you can do up front, the less resources you’ll need to expend with us or another strategist.

There’s No Auto Focus

Knowing who you are is absolutely fundamental to marketing – no matter what business you’re in. Yet so many businesses struggle and fight to succeed in spite of who they are. It’s not like the business can stand up and say, “I want to go to Art School and not be a doctor”. We, as the entrepreneurial parent of the business must help it along. And, no, Med School isn’t for every business.

Stretched metaphors aside, there are three basic things you need to develop or discover in your business. Without knowing these three things, there will always be a ceiling up to which your business can grow. I can tell you from years of my own experience, as well as the stories of others: the more specifically you focus, the greater your growth. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but facts don’t lie.

Some quick examples…

Death Wish Coffee. Mike Brown had a dream – a dream to create the strongest coffee in the world. When he saw a contest to get a Super Bowl commercial, he and his team engaged their fan base. Despite starting a month behind, they won. Now their coffee and merchandise are sold across the world.

River Pools and Spas. Marcus Sheridan, now a top content marketing expert, started by building pools. He grew a small family business into a multi-million dollar enterprise by not only turning down some potentially lucrative jobs… But also by recommending his competitors.

FB County. Probably one of the smallest successful niches I know. This company specializes in “Charlie Brown” shirts – ones that look like the Peanuts character would wear. Made at high quality and marketed to a very specific group of Los Angelenos, they’ve quadrupled their revenues in the past few years.

And the elephant in the room, literally. Facebook started as a social site for a single college before it expanded to all ivy league schools and now dominates the world.

You Can’t Read the Label from Inside the Bottle

The biggest problem most small businesses face is finding the time to press pause, figure out their identity crisis, and resolve it. So instead, they settle for small or capped growth when they could be changing the world.

Our team here at Grow the Dream built our business helping other small businesses and teaching entrepreneurs to succeed, and we can do the same for you. We’re rolling out some classes soon. But please don’t wait. We want you to succeed. It’s all but impossible for you to see the root of your business problems while you’re struggling to fix them. So reach out and let us help you get on the right track.