Are You Overspecialized?

People who get to know me through Casual Marketer are very excited to talk to me about business and ask me questions.  When I tell them that I have a full-time job and that I own a few other online businesses, they suddenly lose interest and appear deflated because I’m not living their ideal dream of writing a few emails every day, recording the occasional video course and then playing around on FB for the rest of the time from a cafe.

I’m going to skip over the whole aspirational, wantrepreneur crowd and their dream of the four hour work week.  They just don’t really know anything about running a proper online business, so when they lose interest, I’m pretty happy about that.

They can run back to their favourite guru and dissect his latest ads on FB showing happy snaps of him and his family laughing while he tries to sell you some stupid program that won’t move the needle for you.

But there’s another group of people who lose interest when I tell them about the diverse range of things that I do and I want to talk to those people in this email.  They think that I’m not successful at any one thing (by their definition of success) and so, therefore, I’m working on a wide range of things to make ends meet.

They think I’m distracting myself from real success.

These people are the “highly focused specialists.”

These folks live under the idea that they should just be working on their online business and everything else is a distraction.

In fact, they often take it much further than that.

Anything that’s not in their wheelhouse should be “outsourced” and given to other people to do for them.  Their “energy” should be spent working on the one thing that they do better than anyone else.

The problem is, that’s myopic.

When you are so narrowly focused on just your specialisation, you aren’t really running a business, you have a specific job in a business that you happen to own.

That’s a bit of subtle difference in language but think of it this way…

Say your business sells online training courses teaching people to do basketweaving.

In your business, you have a number of moving parts: you have your website, you have graphics, you have a social media presence, your videos get edited and then there’s the whole process of marketing your courses to potential customers with the associated tech that surrounds that.

In this machine, the only thing you do is come up with the ideas or the content and then appear on camera to present the ideas.

Everything else happens as if by magic.

Until it doesn’t.  And if you’re not familiar with all of those moving pieces, even superficially, then you’re not going to be able to work out what’s broken and how to fix it.  You’re a cuckold to people who don’t have as much skin in the game as you.
You also don’t know if they are doing a good job or not because you largely have no idea about what they do, you’ve just washed your hands of the problems.  Your blinkered approach means that you’re not even well qualified to understand what’s working or not and why.

Which throws up the obvious problem of not being able to diagnose problems, but to be honest, that’s several steps further down the path, so the issues that crop up tend to be more acute before you even get to this.

But there’s another element to all this.

You end up lacking the ability to innovate in your business.  You aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to learn new things and find new ways to apply them to your situation.

One of the big problems with just outsourcing everything is that you’re not just acquiring skills that someone else already has, you’re also acquiring their bad habits and potentially broken processes.

I say it all the time, you don’t need to be an expert at everything, but you should know how to do most things in your online business with a general level of competence.

Go back to our basketweaving teacher – you should know how to setup and run the cameras, you should know how to edit your video, you should know how to create a landing page and connect it to your email marketing platform and you should know how to set up a buy button and collect payments.

If you just hand that off to other people so that you can exclusively focus on being “the talent”, you’re overly specialised.

The best entrepreneurs are excellent generalists.  They often do lots of things well, but very rarely are they exceptional at any one thing.

Think about it… Is Mark Zuckerberg the best PHP programmers in the world?  Was Steve Jobs a master of industrial design?  Is Elon Musk the world’s pre-eminent rocket scientist?

No.  Those folks have a wide range of skills and are good at many of them without really being what you’d consider being an expert.

Think of any modern CEO – are they good at just one thing?  No, they’re generally good at spotting talent, managing complex organisations, setting strategy and identifying paths to improvement.  Those things in and of themselves within an organisation end up having a diverse scope of activities and required capability.

So the next time you’re sitting there trying to figure out how not to do something in your business because your skills lie somewhere else, remember, you’re not a thoroughbred racehorse, you need to be a pack horse.

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