Is diversification worthwhile?

I am talking about diversification in business here, and from the perspective of a sole trader.

I believe diversification as a whole, be it with race, religion, gender, is always a good idea, how can taking ideas and input from a greater field of experience not lead to better decisions and innovative ideas?

This comes from experience at a small business level. There are industries that need to specialise and diversification can distract for them. Diversification must be driven by need or by the market, expansion in many directions at once can lead to disaster.

Diversification with a particular goal in mind can put a business one step ahead, an innovative idea, repackaging to be environmentally friendly or taking advantage of new technology.

For me diversification came out of necessity. I ran a holiday business for over twenty years, along came planners and all of a sudden our oasis of calm was to be surrounded by housing. This, or the fear of the change forced us to let the majority of our holiday lodges and cabins out long term, we have six, a cottage, an annexe and four log cabins, we are not quite Butlins. We approached this change gradually, testing the market out with one cabin to start with, not sure of their appeal as a longer term rental. We installed full central heating to make the cabins more winter proof.

The experiment went well, we feared we would have a high turnover of tenants, our cabins are similarly priced to a terraced house and a lot more compact, but they are detached and set around a half acre pond. We have now let out five of the cabins longer term, the tenants have been with us for a few years, they are all nice and we get on well, always a bonus!

This did lead to a significant drop in income but it freed up a lot of time, so I returned to accountancy, in the last year or two of phasing out the holiday business and bringing in the long lets, I returned to the accountancy I had started before having my children. I left before qualifying to bring up my boys and to run the family business, a decision I do not regret in the slightest. I undertook training through the AAT, on a self study basis, travelling an hour to an examination centre to take exams at the end of each stage. I have now been a licensed accountant for three years and work as ABC three days a week, leaving the long weekends for managing the lets and looking after the two acres surrounding them.

Even ABC has diversified, but I enjoy it more that way, more variety in work, from training to promotional industries, and marketing to accountancy, admin and posting. I get to work with innovative and really nice people, from home. Some clients take an hour or two per year, others I work for a day or more per week.

I believe diversity has brought more opportunities, more confidence and most importantly, more enjoyment in my work.

Go on, dare to try different!

Published by Holly Mapletoft BA MAAT

Licensed accountant and bookkeeper, untangling tax and unfogging accounts for small businesses.

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