Stick To What You’re Good At

Wrong tool

I’m about to drop a crazy revelation on all of you, so brace yourselves.

You’re not good at everything!

Now, to be clear, I didn’t say anything. This wasn’t some odd personal attack. I said everything. I’m sure there are lots of things you are all really good at. Maybe some of you have a longer list of skills than others. However, none of you are good at everything. You may think you are, and you may have a loyal circle of friends that are willing to back you up on this false theory. Unfortunately, they’re wrong, and thinking this way is doing you and your business nothing but harm.

Let me get this virtual intervention started. I am terrible at design! I’m fascinated by it, and I spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to be better at it. But, at the end of the day, I’m not artistic. I don’t have any innate skills, and I don’t seem to be able to force any improvement, no matter how much time I throw at it.

I would love to be able to design a slick logo for my business, or redesign the template for this site by hand. Heck, I’d settle for a good grasp of CSS and PHP, and at least be able to code the basic framework, and just go out and buy some stock photos to fill in the void. Unfortunately, I’m just interested enough in it to drive myself mad, but not enough to spend the crazy amount of hours per day to really learn how to do it.

Why do I do this?

I don’t like outsourcing or delegating. I’m of the mindset that it’s easier to just do it myself, rather than spend the time and money to get someone else to do it for me. After all, who knows what I want better than me? If I want to run my own business, I should know how to do every aspect of it, right? WRONG!

I’ve spend hours going through Wordpress template sites, trying to find the right one. I’ve spent countless more trying to tweak the ones I download to look just right. When I’m not doing that, I’m installing program after program, trying to find the right one to help me design my logo, or my Facebook page. Clearly, it’s the fault of all these apps that my designs look terrible.

All this time I spend doing this is time that could be spent growing the business. Every hour I work on things I’m not good at, is another hour I’m not billing a client. These hours can add up fast.

Let’s say I bill out my time at $30/hour. If I spent 20 hours last month struggling through all these design projects, I effectively wasted $600. I bet I could have easily found someone who would have done this work for me for considerably less than $600.

Granted, there are no guarantees that I would have billed out $600 of work in the time I was “designing”. The point is that if I was using that time to focus on things I’m really good at, it would have been a much better use of my time. My files would have been better organized. I could have finished my real client work faster, and therefore would have had time to either double check that work, or gone out and searched for new clients.

What are you really good at, and are you doing it?

There is a reason you opened up your own business. You opened your roofing business because you are really good at fixing things. You started teaching piano lessons because you are really good at playing the piano, and at teaching others to do the same. You probably didn’t do it because you’re really good at cold calls or filming a TV commercial. So why are you spending all your valuable time trying to learn how?

I understand, when you are just starting out, you don’t have a big budget. You need to spend as little as possible on outsourcing. You want to hire a bookkeeper or a receptionist, but you just don’t have the budget. Sure, you have to work long hours to pull it off, but at least you’re saving money, right?

The thing you need to understand is that time is something you can spend too much of, just the same as money. If you are working 80 hours a week, your mind’s bank account will go into overdraft just as quickly as your chequing account. Pretty soon you don’t have the energy or focus to do the things you’re good at properly. You are better off doing 3 things really well than doing 10 things adequately.

In the end, you need to sit down and run the numbers. If you are charging $50/hour for your services, don’t do the work of someone who charges $20/hour. It just doesn’t make sense (or cents). Plus, the expert you hire will take less time to finish the same project. The project that takes you 10 hours to finish will take them 3. Heck, find the really good one who charges $50/hour, but only takes 2 hours to finish the job. If it only costs you $100 for a project that would have taken you 10 hours to complete, doesn’t that make more sense?

It will be hard for some of you (myself included) to resist the urge to do it all alone. If you’re like me, you started your own business because you like to do things yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you spend most of your time doing the thing that got you here in the first place. You will be happier, and your business will grow much faster if you do.