One of the things Sears Roebuck is famous for is their Craftsmen tools, especially their mechanical socket wrenches.
Once, while buying one of these, I was confronted with the options of "Good," "Better" and "Best," a strategy for which Sears is also famous. Asking about the difference, I was told that the Best model had more notches, or teeth, inside the mechanism, allowing for finer adjustments when tightening a bolt or nut. Plus, in a tight situation, the extra notches make the Best model work, well, best.
For the past 30 years, the marketplace has increasingly become like that "Best" socket wrench; every year, it acquires more notches. Except in the marketplace, notches are called niches (I prefer "nitch," but some say "neesh" – tomato, tomahto). And just as more notches in a mechanical wrench allow for finer adjustments, niches create finer and more elegant ways to serve customers, which they like – a lot.
As niches have increased in number, so have entrepreneurial opportunities, resulting in the most dramatic expansion of the small business sector in history. It's difficult to say which one is the egg and which is the chicken: Have entrepreneurs taken advantage of niche opportunities presented to them, or have they carved out niches while pushing the envelope of an industry? The answer is not either/or, it's both/and.
Webster defines niche as, "a place or position perfectly suited for the person or thing in it." If ever a concept was "perfectly suited" for something, it is the niche and a small business. Indeed, as one small business owner creates a new niche, another is creating a niche within a niche. It's a beautiful thing.
Rebecca Boenigk is the president of Neutral Posture, Inc., a Texas small business founded by her and her mother over 20 years ago. Rebecca and 75 employees manufacture REALLY comfortable and ergonomically correct office chairs. She told me that her business is doing just fine because they fill a niche, instead of trying to be all things to all people.
In the future, there won't be more mass marketing, mass media or mass distribution. But there will be more niches – lots of new niches.
Don't worry; "mass" business models aren't going away anytime soon. But they won't grow like niches. And that's good news for small business and the future of 21st century entrepreneurship.
More niches mean a healthier small business sector, which I happen to believe is also good for the world.
Write this on a rock… Most small businesses will find success in the future by creating and serving niches.
Thanks to Jim Blasingame / Blogs Forbes