3 Steps to Defining Your Space Multiple people-multiple businesses-can travel down the same lane. But only you can own your parking spot.

By Jill Schiefelbein

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Entrepreneurs tend to be multifaceted people. We have varied interests. We have diverse skill sets. We have an insatiable drive to create and build.

Many of us, also, are easily (SQUIRREL!) distracted.

One of the most common mistakes people make when starting out—and I'm not immune (in fact I think I made the same mistake in different ways with each of my businesses)—is looking at your business as a highway.

With a highway, you have multiple lanes. multiple streams of income. For a mature business, this is the goal. But when you're starting out and trying to establish yourself, build a positive reputation, and create a tribe, multiple lanes present confusion and dilute your effectiveness.

At the onset many are struck with scarcity thinking—if I say no to this then I'm missing out (and I don't want to miss out). And we make decisions based on this thinking that aren't in our best interests.

Choices based on scarcity and fear seldom make for good decisions.

We are afraid to focus on one lane because if we do that, the other lanes will disappear or traffic will get so heavy that we'll lose our place.

That's just not true.

Don't think of these options as disappearing when you choose to focus. Think of them, instead, as lanes under construction while keeping your most-traveled lane is always in working order. Just because you can drive in multiple lanes at the same time doesn't mean that you should. Besides, nobody likes that swerving-between-lanes jackass. Don't be the drunk driver.

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The first step in finding your niche--your space--is picking your lane.

Your lane is your primary business stream. It's where the majority of your revenue originates. If you're a solopreneur and you do coaching, training, and speaking, those are three different lanes. If you're a small business and your profit centers are virtual products, subscription services, and physical products, those are your three lanes. Don't know what your main lane is? Do an income analysis.

Businesses who don't try to build the highway all at one time and instead focus on paving one lane and doing it well tend to grow faster. Once you have one lane solid and operational, then start building another and let traffic merge in. If you have a whole highway under construction, nobody can travel on it. Get one lane operational.

But if you really want to differentiate yourself—if you want to claim an area where only you can land, a lane is the start, but it's not enough.

Screw the lane. Pick a parking spot.

Multiple people—multiple businesses—can travel down the same lane. But only you can own your parking spot.

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How do you create a parking spot? Examine what is your unique IP—intellectual property. Don't have any? Make it. What differentiates you from all the other coaches, for example, traveling in that same lane? Find this. Describe this. Market this. Own this.

Here's an example of how, after trial and error, I found my parking spot. And how, following these three steps, you can, too.

Step One: Pick Your Lane

As mentioned earlier, if you haven't already defined your lane, do an income analysis.

I started The Dynamic Communicator with the focus of consulting. Consulting is my primary lane. However, there are a lot of people who claim to be business communication experts, who are also consultants. That's a traffic jam! I know my experience is different. I know I have unique experiences that make me better for some companies than others, but I was scared to put those out there because I didn't want to limit myself.

Scarcity thinking doesn't lead to success.

Traveling down this lane was enabling me to make a living, but not a lifestyle.

Step 2: Define Yourself

What are your differentiators? Your unique skills and experiences that only you (or you and very few others) can claim? What can your clients and consumers get from you that nobody else can easily give them? What words do your customers use to describe you?

I started examining my most valuable skill sets—my unique experiences and differentiators. I've developed hundreds of online classes and products. I've built up profitable e-learning ventures for universities and for-profit businesses. I speak programming and engineering language and can translate that into layperson messaging. I helped analyze documents obtained from terrorist camp raids in order to reverse engineer how our counterterrorism efforts could break down communication processes. I've co-authored a nationally recognized textbook on business communication. When I break it down, communication, education, and technology are my key strengths.

Step 3: Locate Your Impact Area

Determine where these experiences and skills most valuable. Where can you make the most impact? What businesses or clients are best served? Remember, you could help a lot of different people, but that's a lane, not a parking spot.

For me, my consulting skills are most valuable is the SaaS—Software as a Service—space, and with technology companies who are switching from on-premise to cloud-based solutions. In these cases the end users are no longer IT-based, but are cross-functional. They need different communication and education strategies in order to increase sales and usage/adoption rates. I help navigate that change with dynamic communication strategy.

That's my parking spot.

What's yours? Comment with your three steps and share your parking spot.

Related: 3 Webinars to Grow Your Business

Jill Schiefelbein

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® VIP

Professional Speaker and Business Communication Expert

Jill Schiefelbein is a former professor, professional speaker, and business communication expert. From analyzing documents obtained from military raids of terrorist camps to dissect jihadi communication strategies, building an online education office serving more than 60,000 students, to her own award-winning entrepreneurial ventures, Schiefelbein loves a strategic challenge. Her business, The Dynamic Communicator, creates and executes communication strategies that help companies solve problems, retain talent and produce revenue. Pre-order her new book Dynamic Communication (Entrepreneur Press, March 2017) today.

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