(This is number 5 on my list of the top 10 startup mistakes.)

I’ve done it for years. We all do it. We want to do everything. We want our business to be the best it can possibly be, to bring in every last possible customer, to offer great service, low price and convenient locations everywhere.

Unfortunately, we can’t. Consider this quote:

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”

One problem with trying to do everything is that it’s just not credible. Nobody believes you can do it. If you actually do have the very best food and you also have great service in your restaurant, and then you charge the lowest prices, people won’t go there. They won’t believe the quality of the ingredients. If the cheapest computer or the cheapest car also says it’s the best, nobody buys it.

A worse problem trying to do everything is that you can’t. Even a big, established company can’t, and you’re just a startup. You hurt your chances of doing a few important things well by trying to do everything. Notice the picture in the illustration here, and put yourself in the place of the driver of the vehicle. You have to choose one lane to go to; you can’t choose two lanes or all three.

In business, too, recognizing that you can’t do everything helps you focus so you can do the important things.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.