Is It Better to Be Average?

StrengthWhen you think of your business or agency, do you try to do it all or do you strive to do one thing with excellence?

Whether it be in business or in life, does it make more sense to be a jack of all trades or a specialist – to be average at most things or really good at a few? Is it better to offer more services to your customers or just one?

Let’s explore a few specific examples, so that you can determine what’s right for you and your business.

One Man Shop

If you’re a one man shop, it’s virtually impossible to offer a full list of services and be able to do each thing with excellence. There are going to be certain things that you are better at than others and some that you just enjoy more. It doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t offer them, it’s just hard to be able to do it all with excellence.

So what do you do in this situation? If your goal is to remain small, in business for yourself and not go into managing others, it may make sense to subcontract out work that isn’t your cup of tea. You can continue to offer a full range or services, but just sub out work as needed in order to continue to offer an excellent product, every time.

Another option is to strip your offerings and specialize. Pick a few things that you really enjoy doing and scrap the rest. Get really good at these few things, so good that it doesn’t matter that you don’t offer the rest. People seek you out for these things alone and you are known as one of the leaders in your field.

An Agency

It can be easier to diversify your business and offer excellence in all facets when you run an agency. Why? You can build your team with the sole expectation that you are looking for different specialists to complete your own “dream team.”

You can literally interview based on what people are the best at and what they enjoy doing the most about their work. Offer a full menu of services and build your team based on what you don’t have already. Be able to offer excellence in everything that you do.

Why Specialize?

But why specialize in the first place? Why allow your staff to only be great at one or two things, versus asking them to do and be average at everything? Why should you focus on what you’re very best at as a solopreneur and subcontract out the rest, rather than trying to be able to do it all and offer it all to your clients?

According to Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-Hour Workweek, “Most people are good at a handful of things and utterly miserable at most.” He goes on to talk about that we should be investing our time in things that we are naturally attracted to (because they’re fun!) or that we already excel at to get even better at them.

Another point he makes a little later in the text is, “It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between multiplication of results using strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will at best, become mediocre.” Basically that we should invest our time and energy getting better at the things that we’re already good at, instead of trying to bring the level of the things we don’t like or naturally excel at from horrible to average at best. Tim makes some sense, no?

How Would You Raise Your Children?

I think this is a really interesting thought process for raising children. I’m not yet a parent, but I like to think that when I am one, I’ll be smart enough to see and encourage what my kids enjoy doing and what they naturally excel at. Obviously to pass school, they need to have basic skillsets in certain areas, but I think it’ll provide more value if I help them to get even better at the things they enjoy doing and that come natural to them. I want to help them be great at a few things, rather than average at most. I want to provide opportunities for them to grow in their strengths, rather than just try and correct or better the things that they aren’t so good at.

Not only will this be powerful for their self esteem, but think about if all parents/teachers felt this way – what it could mean for the world at large. If we as a society embraced the fact that we’re not all supposed to be good at everything and instead focused on becoming the best (or just better) at things that we like doing (or that are second nature to us), we really could change the world for the better.

What if people went into a profession based on interests or what they were gifted at, rather than for money or to please their parents? Isn’t that a novel concept? Sadly, it’s not the norm and the way we choose our future career isn’t usually based on our passions – at least not the first time around.

Breaking the Mold

Honestly, I think this is one of the reasons that society seems to be so confused on what their “dream job” or career is supposed to be. There’s a huge gap between what we think is out there versus what we’re currently doing. Those reading this are probably further on the spectrum to finding that out than most and kudos to you! You might already be doing the thing that you’re absolutely passionate about, that comes natural to you and that you enjoy doing day in, day out.

If you’re not there yet, don’t fret. You may be doing this on the side of your day job, but you’re making strides and working towards getting there. Kudos to you too! Try to apply some of what you’re reading to your new business. There’s no reason that you can’t try it all, to determine what it is that you enjoy the most or what you like doing all day. Offer a full range of services and experiment. What do you naturally excel at? Or what do you enjoy that you’re decent at right now, but with a little more work and effort you can get to the next level on? It’s way better to try and find that out at the beginning, rather than after it’s seemingly too late.

Where Do We Go From Here?

If you’re already doing what you love and really good at the few things that you offer, congrats! Why are you reading this? Just kidding, part of the reason you excel, is that you probably have already done your homework, honed in on your natural abilities and worked hard to get them to the level of being excellent, rather than average. You’re on the right path.

For the rest of us that are in business as one or operating an agency, do you feel that you’re at the point of excellence in all that you offer? Can you say with confidence that you (or a member of your team) are able to do xyz better than the rest, every time? If you’re not, then you’ve got two options – invest your time and energy to getting better or farm it out.

For our solopreneurs, if it’s not interesting to you or something you have the time, desire and energy to get better at, find someone else to do it (and maybe at a better price!). For our agency people, if your team isn’t currently built around being excellent at all of the services you offer, do you need to invest some time, money and energy in developing them to get closer to that goal? Does your current team have the potential and through a little coaching and training, they can get there? Or do you need to dial back the services you offer? Or maybe find a new team member to fill the gap in a certain area? It’s up to you!

In Conclusion

If you want to be the very best at what it is you do, then you can’t do it all. The jack of all trades mentality is for someone that just wants to get by – not for someone that wants to provide an excellent deliverable, every time. Take some time today to list your strengths and weaknesses. What do you need/want to invest time and energy getting better at? What on your list are you currently responsible for that you would get rid of doing in a heartbeat?

Follow your gut (or your heart) and put a plan in place to make some changes today. 2015 isn’t that far away – there’s enough time to address it as a part of your next year’s business plan!

What are you good at right now, that with a little time and effort you could excel at?

Photo Credit: ROSS HONG KONG

About Tom Ewer


Tom Ewer and the WordCandy team have clocked some serious mileage as freelancers, agency employees and even agency owners over the years, and they love sharing their combined expertise here on the Bidsketch blog.

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James Todd

Hi Tom
Good article. Having done a few different things over the years, I only realized later in life that I really enjoyed technology, servicing PCs, networking, a building websites. It is only in the last 2 years that I have pursued this, and still spend more unpaid time educating myself, than paid time. I keep thinking, “what part of this do I want to be doing in 5 years” and I haven’t found the answer yet. I live in a small quiet area, and the local opportunities are limited, but I really enjoy helping small businesses develop web based business plans. I enjoy working with people, so I am leaning toward something that will let me interact with clients.
Your article here has helped me in two important ways. First, I do realize, as a one man shop, that I need to pick a focal point and work to excel at it. Second I appreciate the value of knowing, not just what you are good at, but what you like to do. Thanks for helping me sort that out.

Dean Logan

Tom,

Great post.

You should check out the posts of Tim Williams with Ignition Consulting. His emphasis on specialization and focus is right in line with this.

Robin Jennings

Specialisation certainly has its benefits- especially in the web design world where its pretty easy to be out of your depth if your unfamiliar with a CMS or framework.

Lucin

Very well put together, and encouraging. Thank you for writing this up!

Niall

Hi Tom. I’m currently raising a 2 year old daughter and 9 months old son and partially agree with your analogy of How Would You Raise Your Children? I think we all need to first establish what we’re good at, what we’re average at and what we’re not good at. There’s limited time in the day so you can choose to become an expert at the things you’re good at by perfecting them or become a bit better at the average things and average at the not-so-good things.

Being average doesn’t set you apart from the competition; in fact if you look generally at successful people, they’re successful because they’re different to others (not average) and exceptional at what they do (not average).

Unfortunately, implementing this takes time and money and is easier said than done!

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