A Business Reminder from a Flat Tire
Have you ever tried to repair something yourself and subsequently regretted it? A broken door, a leaky toilet, an overheating car engine? Were you able to fix the problem or did you unintentionally make it worse? A few weeks ago I bought a new bike for my 3 year old daughter. The rear tire lasted about a week and then went flat. I thought to myself, eh, a flat tire, no big deal, I can change it out and she'll be back on the road in no time. It took me about 3 hours to go to the store, buy the parts, return home, disassemble the bike, replace the tire, and reassemble the bike. Voilà, all is well!
Actually, not so much. After about 10 minutes of riding, the tire was flat again! Because I am very much an amateur bike mechanic, I had unintentionally punctured a hole in the new tire as I was replacing it. Instead of using precise actions derived from relevant historical experience, I used brute force where technique was required and I used amateur methods when wisdom was required. I had not only wasted 3 hours of time but I had wasted money as well. Striving not to make the same mistake twice, I took my daughter and the bike to a local "atelier" or community workshop (one of the many things I appreciate about France) where I paid 15 euros for a one year membership and thus had access to a team of seasoned bike mechanics and all the tools one would need to make any conceivable repair. Within 15 minutes the assistant guided me through the entire process; what tools to use, where to apply acute pressure, when to finesse the tire, and the exact right amount of inflation to achieve a perfect re-installation of the tube. Not all of the techniques he showed me were intuitive, they were specific actions guided by years of experience and training.
I found the entire experience to be an example of a much larger idea; specialists save time, money, and energy and often produce a superior outcome versus what we could have achieved on our own. Many of us hesitate to engage specialists either out of pride, laziness, or a misguided attempt to save money. In business, the decision to avoid specialists can be time consuming, expensive, and frustrating. Does your company handle benefits in house or do you use someone like Zenefits? Does your company offer a subscription model and do you handle payments internally or outsource to a provider like Stripe? Stripe actually fixes the problem of credit card expiration dates and new card numbers by working with the credit card companies directly so that recurring payments are not declined when the expiration date is reached. I know of several organisations that spend countless hours per month dealing with declined customer payments due to expiration dates. Does your team rely solely on email and a shared calendar for communication? In the last few years there has literally been a technological explosion of useful web-based tools that facilitate project management, coordination, and efficiency; Companies like Evernote and Basecamp enable your team to stay connected, collaborate securely, and produce high quality projects in an efficient and timely manner.
If your business could benefit from specialized professionals or if you are the specialist who helps other businesses succeed, this book is a must read, The Seven Principles of Professional Services.
Finally, Upwork is a community of specialists who have proven (and rated) track records of superior performance in web and mobile development, marketing, design, writing, accounting, and consulting. The next time you confront a problem that is outside of your expertise, seriously consider finding a specialist to help bring about a solution; you just might save a couple hours, a couple bucks, and achieve a superior outcome.