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If You Think an Expert is Expensive, Try Hiring an Amateur


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I have a colleague and supplier (an information technology specialist) who earns a significant part of his income fixing disasters. He gets lots of work from clients who thought they were computer savvy and capable of building their own network or website (WRONG!) or after having assembling a team of independent specialists who do not understand the overall underlying structure of a system (NOT A GOOD IDEA!)  As a result, they got themselves in all kinds of trouble, like accidentally deleting their important system files, or breaking key system components that brought their site down.

This IT guy understands my tendency to play around with the computer programs without any programming experience. As a result, he created a simple solution: while I retain complete access to all the information, I will never, ever know the passwords for any computer operation.

Entrepreneurs are not alone in thinking that they can do anything, that they can’t afford extra resources; they think they have to do everything, are paranoid about trusting others, or don’t think it is important enough to require a particular expertise. This approach is just simply absurd.

  • Running a business is complex and requires multiple and different skills. Creative and financial skills require different ways of thinking. Even with website development, many organizations lack the technical, marketing, and creative capabilities to build successful internet programs.
  • We generally understand the competitive issues in our product, pricing, and marketing. But ignore the need to hire the right people and resources. Hiring Uncle Al because he’s your uncle, or taking in the cheapest labor because they’re, well, cheap, is not a recipe for business success.
  • You also need diversity and innovation in your business. Using expert resources can help integrate your package and bring fresh approaches to your business. Similarly, time constraints frequently demand additional resources. Even excellent clerical help can free the entrepreneur for more important tasks.

Some specific recommendations:

  • Understand your business strategy and the map you’ve created, and include resource requirements in it. Don’t accept mediocrity, because doing so can be the difference between success and failure.
  • Components like systems, internet, operations, customer service, marketing, and accounting require special skills and expertise. Many competent experts can be found in the freelance sites on the web.
  • Involve these specialists in the total operation of the business. In particular, ensure they understand their role and responsibility in affecting profit. For example, SEO and social media sites are notorious for selling programs with no understanding or concern for generating profits. One of their favorite lines is “I will get you leads, but you have to generate the sales,” with no responsibility for generating qualified leads.

In summary, treat your organization, resources, and components the same way you treat your product, marketing, and branding. On the one hand, remember the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. On the other hand, excellence, in even little details, can make a major difference.

As one resource told me, “If you think an expert is expensive, try hiring an amateur.”

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