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Running a niche business

For many people, suited-and-booted corporate life isn’t an appealing prospect. They want creativity (although some would argue that there’s plenty of creative potential even in the starchiest-looking business world…), they want dynamism, they want to do things their way. For people like this, running a niche business is the answer – a small enterprise where they retain close control over their product and can move nimbly in line with market demands and opportunities.

But what’s the reality of this? In many ways, the process of running a niche business is the same as when you run a more conventional company. First of all, you need to identify a need in the market – the difference is that this need will most likely be geared around your particular products or area of expertise, so if your business is a creative one, chances are you’ll already understand the market and see an opportunity you can make the most of.

Some business start-ups make the mistake of looking for something that has never been done before in their particular niche, and then focus their products on this. Sounds good, doesn’t it? My advice to those in this position is to be very careful; while it’s important when running a niche business to stand out a little, you have to be sure that people will genuinely want your product when they become aware of it.

Some of the most successful businesses in the world have prospered by creating products that people don’t know they want until they see them, and this can be a misleading sign to people who are just starting out with running a niche business. Nobody ever talks about the countless companies which never really got out of the starting blocks because, even when people did become aware of their products, they didn’t care. At the risk of mixing metaphors, make sure your niche isn’t too far from the beaten track.

One of the major benefits and attractions of running a niche business, particularly when you’re just starting out, is that you can keep your operation very agile, and respond effectively to changing market conditions by creating new products or offering new services. This is a great way to keep yourself profitable whilst exploring new business territory.

All that said, normal business advice still applies when you’re running a niche business. There are some rules you can’t rewrite: the traditional guidance for things like business management and customer service is as valid for a small creative business as for a corporate multinational. Running a niche business doesn’t mean you can ignore the wisdom and experience of others!

Whatever industry area you’re in, and whatever your products or services might be, you should always work to be the best at what you do. Apply yourself to every task with gusto. Strive to become the go-to expert for your specialist area. Look around at the market. Adapt. React. And if you feel that your niche is about to be filled in – whether that’s by a product becoming obsolete, or through aggressive competition that you can’t overcome – don’t be afraid to move on and find a new one. After all, part of the challenge and excitement of running a niche business is the chance to make your own choices whilst making a profit at the same time!

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