- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

A Classic Case of Cold Feet in Business

8th November, 2017

A Classic Case of Cold Feet in Business

‘La Maison du Steak’

Proudly embossed on its shiny black door, there were no prizes for what this cosy-looking neighbourhood restaurant was offering. My stomach started to rumble at the thought of a sizzling steak frites with a crack of black pepper and a large glass of red.


But then I saw the tagline on its awning:


‘We are more than just a steakhouse’


Oh, I thought. More than steak? Well, maybe they’re talking about the frites. Not so bad. (But still, probably not the ideal tag line for a restaurant called The House of Steak.)


But then I saw it. The nail in the coffin. The other awning, plastered with words:


  • Waffles
  • Coffee
  • Breakfasts
  • Bistrot
  • Vegetarian
  • Takeaway
  • Cafe
  • Rotisserie

And right then and there I decided not to go in. Why? Because suddenly I was worried that this restaurant was jack of all trades and master of none. Because when I thought they specialised only in steaks, I was imagining expert chefs cooking my tender hand cut meat to mouthwatering perfection.


Now, however, I was envisaging a grey slab slapped on a grill alongside frozen waffles with a scrawny chicken turning mournfully on a spit in the corner.


It was a classic case of cold feet.

I see this happen with businesses all the time.


Businesses that start off hanging their hat on one great idea, but don’t articulate their value well enough so customers don’t respond immediately.


They start to wobble, to worry that their ‘one thing’ isn’t enough. They dream up other bits and pieces to offer to customers and spread themselves thinly across too many areas…


And in the name of trying to please everyone, they end up pleading no-one. The brand and the offering has been diluted so much that their customers no longer know what they stand for. And that’s business suicide.


So how do you avoid cold feet in business?

  • If you do just one thing, do it well. Really well. And remember, your customers are busy people. If you want to succeed you have to invest time and energy into explaining and showing exactly:
  • what you do so darn well
  • how you’re different from everyone else out there
  • why your customers should give a damn about you
  • So if you’re selling steak, do you have a unique cooking method for total deliciousness? If you’re a
  • consultant, is there an unusual part of your experience that gives you a different perspective? If you’re an
  • online platform, exactly what problem are you solving that no other tech can?


Many great businesses were built on one great idea, BUT (and it’s a big but) it’s almost always one great idea, brilliantly articulated. And that’s the key to becoming master of your trade.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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