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Leaning into Your Niche
While plenty of companies do find long-term success and security in offering a range of services or products, becoming an expert in a largely untapped market is how many others think outside the box to build their reputation in underrepresented markets.

by Madeleine Maccar

A diversification of services, the experts say, safeguards a business against risks like irrelevancy, insecurity and stagnation, the logic being that a plurality of offerings minimizes the chance of an organization putting all of its eggs in one basket to a disastrous, potentially business-shuttering end.

And while approaching the deliberate growth and evolution of one’s company with a watchful eye and mindful purpose can help avoid the pitfalls of pigeonholing the organization into oblivion, there are times when business leaders recognize that their company should be laser-focusing its expertise on its strengths with a refined sense of singular purpose, rather than attempting to be all things to all customers.

By capitalizing on their success in a well-defined niche that few have explored the potential of, those purpose-driven organizations can secure their places as industry experts, filling a service or product void in an untapped market. That exclusivity of purpose can be a crucial differentiator in experience and expertise, helping to establish those proven experts as clients’ go-to providers and problem-solvers with a reputation for rising to the occasion in an area that few have identified as a profitable endeavor in need of knowledgeable, capable experts.

The niche one serves isn’t always immediately apparent and may emerge as a viable opportunity after getting to know what sectors remain underserved, as the Kiwi Offices team can attest to. Founder and CEO Christopher Jerjian has spent his decades-long career in commercial real estate, where he’s seen everything from economic factors to customer trends impact the kind of professional space being sought out, all while paying close attention to what tenants are asking for to better anticipate their needs.

Keeping his ear to the ground paid off in more ways than one, including the refinement of purpose that led to developing “a different business model,” one that serves an occupant need that Jerjian noticed few others had tapped into: providing move-in-ready office suites with essential amenities designed for smaller offices, a potential for new business he first saw coming almost 20 years ago and finally launched in the wake of the Great Recession’s shifting office-space demands.

“I kind of fell on this niche just by a process of evolution. … You have to love your business and you have to be passionate about it to do that sort of a U-turn,” Jerjian observes. “I really didn’t advertise that much, it was word of mouth—but once a few people hear about it, it spreads. Within eight, nine months, I was at something like 70% occupancy; by 12 months, I was full. So I knew I hit on something: I knew it was there, I just didn’t realize how powerful that need was.”

For Angela Morrison, owner of the virtual assistant Angie’s At Your Service, the business was born of her own firsthand experience in the business world and seeing time and again that good help truly is hard to find. While she believed in her purpose and was certain of the company’s potential for solving business owners’ problems, it wasn’t always easy convincing potential clients of the value in hiring her company as a professional subcontractor providing administrative, technical and creative assistance remotely to overwhelmed business owners in need of a task master.

And then COVID-19, which was so ruinous in so many ways, actually turned out to be a silver lining for Angie’s At Your Service. That sudden shift to everything going virtual heralded the moment it seemed like everyone else finally realized how critical it was to have a trusted virtual assistant and advisor in their corner to help them “work on their business, not in it”—a niche that Morrison says became apparent after she invested in her own business coach and analytically assessed her company’s strengths.

“I had to let the business talk to me, because originally when I first started out, everybody asked the question, ‘What is your niche?’ and I’d say, ‘Administrative support spreads across any and all industries, so we don’t have a niche,’ which is kind of still true,” she explains. “Sitting with a business coach made me look at things and evaluate things and just see where I was. Spending that time really analyzing where I was, where I am now, and just sitting down to take the pulse of the business, that’s what made me realize where we should home in on and where we found our sweet spot.”

For some, finding their niche is rooted in a lifetime of experience culminating in a novel way of marrying a top-to-bottom industry perspective with one’s natural strengths. Reggie Hill was already gaining real-world, hands-on experience in the flooring industry as a young boy, accompanying his dad to job sites at such an early age that his father—a man with an exacting eye and whose “calling card was perfection”—entrusted him with leading floor-installation teams at just 13 years old.

Hill worked for his father into adulthood before further developing his skills by “seeking out every opportunity” and establishing Floor Covering Services & Consultants in 1995. Hill considers himself a resilient floor industry expert and troubleshooter, whose decades of experience have made him a highly sought-after resource for commercial flooring manufacturers, whether it’s outsourcing technical and maintenance support, training flooring installers to ensure that materials are installed correctly and according to manufacturers’ instructions, figuring out what caused a flooring failure on a large project, or providing expert witness testimony—essentially anything that requires great depth of knowledge, grit and confidence to pursue resolutions for flooring related issues.

“Being an entrepreneur and filling a niche is difficult: There’s a lot of unexplored areas, because people are afraid to say things or do things that are out of the ordinary,” says Hill. “You have to be brutally honest with yourself and others. … You’ve got to speak up and be able to demonstrate your expertise.  That's something I’ve always been very good at and that has contributed to my success—that and my willingness to do something nobody’s ever done before.”

While every company and their leadership teams are obviously different, there are some constants in determining when it’s time to stop chasing a diversified purpose and, instead, to consider the benefits of narrowing their vision to suit a niche in need of high-quality, keenly focused experts.

Finding an underserved but in-demand market segment is just the beginning, as resting on one’s laurels is never a sound business philosophy. Sustainable growth and ensuring that you’re proactively responding to the needs of those who rely on your company to deliver what few—if any—others are providing are still critical components in one’s continued success.

“By focusing in on this niche, I’m not struggling: I’m actually thriving,” Jerjian says. “Everyone always says, ‘Oh, the small tenants are a headache, they call you for this, they call you for that.’ … But they’re calling you because you’re not delivering what they want! So I tailored my spaces to deliver what they wanted, and those calls went away because they’ve got everything they need. … It’s really a matter of drilling down and understanding what your user wants. You have to see what the size of the market is, focus in on that and become the best so you become the go-to business or go-to person for that.”

Building that stellar reputation takes time, of course, and Morrison says that it was probably the hardest part of the process for her, especially since a pre-COVID world didn’t always understand the value in her services.

“It took some time convincing people that if you’re struggling to find good help, here’s a way to partner with me, so to speak, so I can come in and provide that for you as a service,” she says. “The win-win is that we become their one-stop shop. Clients come to us and maybe start out with recruiting, and then maybe they lose somebody in HR and they’re like, ‘Hey, you guys do HR,’ so they’re able to quickly transition to working with someone on our team who is already invested in their business, and who knows their business, which makes for a smoother, quicker transition than a company having to spend money and time on advertising, filling and training for that position.”

After all, whether you’re fighting for industry prominence or just about the only player in your market, customer service is always a key differentiator while networking remains one of the most impactful ways to help connect your company with the niche it services.

“You’ve got to network within your industry, talk to everybody, look them in the face, go have dinner, go have breakfast, go have a beer, go golfing if you’re a golfer—but get with people from every aspect of your industry and develop relationships. As I like to say, ‘I don’t know everything but I know someone who can give me the answer on anything related to resilient flooring if I need it.’ Those answers can help move a job forward,” says Hill. “The other thing is, there’s only one way to do a job you’re putting your name on: the right way. Give people something no one else has given them.”


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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 13, Issue 7 (July 2023).

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