Everyone wants to be known as an expert in their field. We regularly hear terms like “thought leadership” thrown around, with each brand hoping to inch ahead as the expert in its industry. But we rarely go as far as to define the term “expert.” What constitutes an expert? And at what point is a small business staff transformed from a group of amateurs to a team of experts?
During his time as a CEO, Steve Jobs noticed that “the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
This is why we should all aspire to be surrounded by A+ team members. But this is much easier said than done. First, it’s challenging to attract A+ players even if you are already an all-star. With limited capital and only a part-time staff, top-notch players might gravitate away from your business. For B-level players (e.g. the less-experienced small business owner who pushes his or her way up the ranks), it’s even harder to gather a team of experts. This leaves you with several C candidates to choose from, so you pay low wages, manage your team poorly, and take on the brunt of the burden to train those below you. Ultimately, you fail to create a strong and cohesive team that can truly be innovative.
In this all-too-common situation, you’re running the show as the highest level expert on the team. You’re the most competent and skilled, and the organization rests primarily on your shoulders.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a very effective way to lead — and it’s certainly not fun either. In fact, experts will tell you that the key to supreme management is to surround yourself with brilliant team members, including people who are smarter than you in the areas of the business that they handle. Why would you even want to be smarter than your IT person in regards to technology? Or direct every little day-to-day task for your marketing manager? Mastering your own work should be the priority.
So if you are short on funds and still largely unknown in your industry, how can you acquire a better network? One option to consider is hiring consultant experts. Early on, this is a great way to make up for your lack of reputation and limited staff. Once you’ve grown your business to a reasonable level of stability, you can decide if you want to hire such experts in-house.
Free to Focus
One of the most obvious reasons for having a team of true experts is the freedom it provides you as a manager. It allows you to maintain your role as the visionary. A leader who oversees a team of experts doesn’t need to get his or her hands dirty with the specifics of each different department. They simply do the job that is relevant to them: management and all that it entails. The same goes for each team member, who can focus entirely on their own tasks without being bogged down in other employees’ problems. The freedom to focus gives each employee the ability to refine the areas they oversee. This paves the way for above average products and services because each detail has an expert taking care of it. Nothing slips through the cracks.
As blogger Mike Dubose says, it’s common for entrepreneurs to scramble and hire an expert after a mishap occurs. But by this point, the problem has already manifested, and some damage is already done. Instead of reactive, smart entrepreneurs are proactive, hiring experts to do things correctly from the start. He defines an expert as simply, “someone who knows more than I do.”
Don’t expect yourself to develop expertise in each area of a complex and multifaceted business. You won’t be a master of finance, marketing, customer experience, administrative tasks, software, etc. — there’s just not enough time in a day. Some entrepreneurs will try to do it all themselves to save cash early on, but being a Jack of all trades will burn you out and lead to mistakes. So reach out to other experts to prevent both major mistakes and small mishaps from the beginning.
As Jobs said, a team of A+ players can dance circles around a sub-par team. In other words, projects may be accomplished in half the time or with half the budget when a truly innovative and motivated group of experts is in charge. In today’s fast-paced and rapidly advancing marketplace, leveraging experts can put you just a hair ahead of your competitors who are working on similar projects. Sometimes this makes all the difference and separates the innovators from the followers.
Expertise requires countless hours of practice. This is time that neither you nor your less experienced team members have. An expert can skip ahead and skirt common pitfalls because they’ve been there before. They have applied knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, meaning they can help you avoid headaches and complete things faster.
On the surface, experts cost more money. They know their value, and they won’t undercharge for their services. B or C-level players, on the other hand, are more likely to accept lower salary offers as they are less experienced. However, this doesn’t mean you should automatically sacrifice skills for the sake of pinching pennies. Hiring a low-motivation team will not have much of a return on investment anyway — even if it’s cheaper than hiring experts.
In many ways experts ultimately will save money. The key is to compare money lost from not having experts on your team with money spent to pay experts. In some cases, the former will exceed the latter. For example, you might save thousands of dollars that would otherwise be squandered with the help of a financial adviser. In another case, you might waste the majority of your marketing budget on ineffective strategies without a digital marketing consultant who has been there. Sometimes it’s not what you do, but what you fail to do that ends up costing money. Depending on your circumstances, experts can serve as rescuers that help you avert spending disasters.
As a newcomer, it’s difficult to establish your brand in the early years. You are unknown, your team is unknown, and customers have no idea what your business is all about. This is why a solid branding strategy is such an integral part of any small business’ long-term success. Having seasoned experts on your team can mitigate this problem, inspiring confidence in your new audience. But it isn’t always their competence and skill that inspires confidence — sometimes it’s simply their familiar face.
Many entrepreneurs struggle to establish their first business but, once successful, subsequent ventures often grow rapidly with minimal effort. Why is this? Studies hint that familiarity — or simply having been in the business world and gained some exposure — is enough to generate a degree of trust. People assume that if a known expert is on your team, you must be doing something right. Thus your brand becomes a bit more memorable and trustworthy. This might be perceived by some as somewhat unfair or biased, but it shows that audiences are fairly open-minded and that it’s possible to win their trust. They trust who they have seen before, even if that expert worked in a different business. By garnering the support of a well-known expert in your industry, you are essentially letting others know that your brand is legitimate and poised for stability.
Setting a Standard
In addition to establishing your business with your target demographic, you’ll also want to define a distinct brand within for employees. When surrounded by experts who have high standards and extensive backgrounds in their field, other employees will feel compelled to do their best work, too. In an environment of excellence, those who are not truly committed will fall to the wayside, while those who have what it takes will blossom and grow. Establishing high standards in a non-judgmental environment is a surefire way to solidify a strong company culture for your team.
If you’re a DIY-er at heart and still on the fence about hiring experts, remember that there is a personal benefit that goes along with this practice. There is no better way to improve your current skills and knowledge base than by learning from another, more experienced professional. Experts can provide you with the coaching you need to surpass old ways of behaving and become a more versatile leader.
Your team members’ strengths can rub off on you in any number of ways. So if you’re still reluctant to seek outside help, think of it as a self-development endeavor. From this perspective, you can won’t see experts as a crutch — you’ll see them as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow as a business owner.
An Expanded Network
Every time you add an expert to the team, they bring along with them a large network that we, too, acquire simply by hiring them. Each of your team members might know 30 other professionals whose expertise they can tap into. In that case, with just four new team members your network has automatically expanded to include 120 new professionals. This may not always be the case, but don’t get stuck in the habit of viewing your experts as static additions to your team. They are actually always in flux, learning from others outside your business and expanding their own networks and skill sets in the process.
These are some of the many ways small business owners can benefit from a carefully constructed team of experts, and they are too important to pass up. To delve more into how valuable your time is and the best way to leverage it, download our free Maintain Your Balance whitepaper.