“You guys should go national!”
I used to hear that all the time.
When I was the Executive Producer of Seattle’s hit comedy TV show Almost Live!, I used to hear that on almost a daily basis. Eventually, I started to believe it. I mean, why not? We were a hit in Seattle. We had some of the best comedy writers in the business. We already had a TV studio. Why shouldn’t we go national?
And then, one day, we got our chance. We were offered a slot on Comedy Central, the fledgling (at that time) national comedy network. (Okay, truthfully, that “one day” followed months of phone calls, number crunching, and negotiations. But none of that is relevant to my point, which I promise I’ll get to eventually.)
“This is gonna be great!” we thought. After all, if they loved us in Seattle (and they did), why wouldn’t they love us everywhere?
Well, they didn’t love us. Oh, they liked us. But they didn’t love us. We were okay. But we were just okay.
Just okay doesn’t cut it in my business. And I’m guessing just okay doesn’t cut it in your business either.
So what happened? Where did we go wrong? Looking back, I see that we fell into an all-too-common trap. We started to believe that bigger is always better. If a local show is good, then a national show must be better. But it turns out that isn’t always true. What’s bigger isn’t always better. What’s better is what’s better. And the truth is that we were a better local show than we were a national show. Being a local comedy show was what we were better at—it’s what we did best. And that’s where our focus should have been—on what we did best.
That’s where your focus should be as well. On what you do best. Don’t get blinded by “bigger.”
YOU: “So you’re saying I shouldn’t think big?”
No, not at all. You should think big—but not at the expense of what you do best. Think about them both, but in this order:
I know this seems like common sense (as do so many things), but it’s really easy to get these in the wrong order. Big is cool! It was cool being on national TV! But you know what happened when we stopped being a national show and went back to being a local show?
We won our time slot. Every week. Without fail. Without exception. For ten straight years.
When you focus on what you do best, you get better results.
And that’s a big win.