Online Micro Workshop: Specialization

Philip Morgan

I recently consulted with a $9MM agency on their positioning. Their main fear about making the decision? What will the market think? And how can we know for sure how they will react to our changed specialization focus? They’re not alone. Almost everyone I’ve led through the specialization decision making process shares this uncertainty, and the fear it can create. It’s a reasonable fear. You face far less uncertainty when you consider these other elements of specializing:

  • What markets do you have the best access to?
  • What markets do you have the most insight into?
  • Where does your track record offer good credibility?
  • What do your current/previous clients think about the potential change?

But that question… what will the market think? It haunts us. I used to recommend deep, interview-based market research to resolve this uncertainty. I now think that level of investment is excessive for most situations. I think you can de-risk (meaning remove some but not all uncertainty from) the question of what the market will think with a cheap, fast experiment involving a small (tiny, really) content asset and direct outreach. You didn’t sign up for this online micro workshop; I’m just sending it to my entire list as a way to kick my own ass into getting it done so I can turn it into an automated sequence for And who knows, maybe it’ll sell a few more seats in the specialization workshop! It’ll be 3 action-oriented emails, an explanation of how it connects with the expanded experience you’ll get from the $700 8-week workshop starting October 8, and a few reminders to consider signing up for that workshop.

Micro-Workshop Part 1

Here’s the entire process for deciding how to specialize:

  1. Assess your current situation by inventorying past experience, areas of interest, and entrepreneurial theses.
  2. Assess your risk profile.
  3. Create a shortlist of specialization opportunities.
  4. Apply guardrails to your shortlist.
  5. Choose depth of validation for your shortlist options.
  6. Implementation.

In this micro workshop, we’ll focus on steps 1 through 4, and today just step 1. You probably think you understand your current situation and the specialization opportunities it contains. You might be right, but I’ve found that when I ask folks to write it down, they see the situation differently. More objectively. Or they remember things they’d forgotten. Or they notice patterns they hadn’t seen before. Your micro workshop homework for today is: create an inventory. Here’s how to do that.

Making The Inventory

Use a spreadsheet for your inventory. It will make organizing it and looking for patterns much easier. Inventory everything you’ve ever done for clients, employers, and any substantial side-projects. For each thing in your inventory, include:

  • Client name
  • Market vertical that client is in
  • The business outcome of what you did for that client

Add to your inventory all abilities to move the needle for clients that you currently have. The following are examples of these kind of abilities:

  • Increase conversion rate on e-commerce stores
  • Reduce downtime for critical infrastructure
  • Integrate ERP with other systems
  • Reduce cognitive load of using software

Add to your inventory all entrepreneurial theses you’re interested in possibly pursuing. The difference between this and the previous step is that to pursue an entrepreneurial thesis, you might have to put together a team, or rent skill you don’t have, or build something that requires up-front investment, or just generally take on more risk — perhaps by pursuing a specialization you just can’t validate but you believe deeply in — as part of building your market position. This is a WORKshop. Yes, you didn’t sign up for it per se, but if it’s landing at the right time for you, do consider doing the WORK. Today, that’s the inventory I described above. In the next installment (Monday) we’ll get to the next step, which is characterizing your inventory in a somewhat objective way and connecting the inventory to your personal risk tolerance. -P There’s a more information-oriented, longer, less action-oriented version of this process here: /specializing-and-positioning-an-independent-consulting-business/