People are told to “cut out the middle man” like its a good thing, but specialisation is what allowed us to stop being subsistence farmers. Someone got good at sharpening tools… etc.
Specialised knowledge is the best way be genuinely useful in the world.
This started out as a cute joke about our new business, Middle Office, but it got me thinking about SME’s.
I don’t know about you but every time I walk past a new shop I instantly start wondering about how it will do. I used to think I was good at predicting it’s success, I’m not. I am not an entrepreneur. I’m like a good teacher that thought I’d make a good principal, we are all encouraged to think that way. To Strive. Far better, I now understand, to do what you love, and to do what you’re good at.
So what about you, are you sitting up late at night trying to balance spreadsheets, trying to master WordPress, or working out how to make your CRM join up to your website.
We all know someone that started working for themselves and realised that changing their own oil, or cleaning the house, was a waste of money because they realised they could earn more per hour doing what they are good at.
It’s rarely cheaper doing things for yourself that are outside your core strength, don’t forget that a lot of SMEs don’t make much money, and they’re the specialists in that field. You aren’t.
They only seem more expensive because they have to cover their overheads as well, but matey, so do you. Time spent scrubbing the bath puts your breakeven hourly rate up.
And last of all you have to consider what economists call “market efficiency”, usually the only SME’s that survive are very efficient. They are bound to be more efficient than you.
So how do you work out what to do yourself and what to give to a specialist?
This is the criteria I use.
- If I learn how to do it will it save me time in the future and give me a sense of satisfaction? Hubspot yes, housework no, and Microsoft no (a bottomless pit of time wasting).
- Am I interested in it? Marketing yes, walking the dog yes, HR contracts no.
- If I bludgeon my way through it will it change before I have to do it next time, and will I have forgotten most of what I learnt? Tax returns.
- If I mess it up could there be serious consequences? Servicing the car.
- Will it be cheaper to use an expert because of market manipulations? Insurance and mortgage brokers charge fees and you still save money because big companies price discriminate.
- Will it cost me more if I do it because it takes me much longer? Painting the house.
- Will it cost me more if I do it because I don’t have specialist tools? Computers they use to service cars these days.
- Will it cost me so much in redundancy that it’s not worth it? This is the big one. People aren’t always reliable, what extra capacity do you have to build in to cover emergencies? Or are you just risking it?
So don’t service your own car (unless you really want to), don’t do your own tax and don’t do your own payroll.