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Do-it-yourselfers: A unique species of business owners or a term for them all?

Category: General Published on Jan 01

I remember a few years ago when I worked for a small business owner. It was a very unique experience that taught me quite a bit about what a single person can do, an even more important what a single person can not do!

One of the most important things that I learned during the couple of years I spent with this small business owner was that, often more time and money was spent trying to learn or do things yourself than spending the money on having it done profesionally. I also learned quite a bit about branding, image and marketing. Maybe I should say that I learned quite a bit about how not to do it. Let me explain this in a little more detail so you understand what I mean.    Today working with a company that helps business owners and corporations create their image, branding and marketing material, I finally understand the difference between those who will always work by themselves and those who will grow into a real business that is not dependant on the founder or owner. Besides what they are willing to outsource or hire other to do it, it is a mindset as well. I was reading one of Robert Kiyosakis books the other day and it all started making sense to me, and made me want to share this with others that may be in the startup business and looking to become more than just a one man show.    
Why do small business owners try to do everything themselves? One of the reasons is that they say they don’t have the money, which in most cases is a bad excuse. Why do I say it is an excuse? Simply because many of them waste valuable hours not doing anything but trying to understand the basics of what they are looking to do, time that could be going into direct sales. Some of them may even have an in house person try to do things and learn how to do something, which now means they are using money to pay salary for a person that in most cases will only understand some basics. The other aspect of why they may try to do everything themselves is more mental, they simply think that they are the best person to do it. The mindset is that no one could do it as well as they can, which also is the reason why many small businesses are nothing more than a sole proprietorship and are completely dependant on the owner.   So you may ask yourself what are some things that I should do as a small business owner and what are some things that I should hire a professional to do? If the answer to that question was easy then we would have developed the ultimate recipe for any business to grow. Fortunately there is not a single answer for that question the closest you can get is, it depends on what your strengths are. If you are an accountant starting up your own accounting firm, chances are you will not have to hire someone to do your taxes. Now on the other hand if you are coming from a creative background you might not want to do your taxes or spend the time learning how to do your taxes yourself.    
Here is a list of things that we would recommend that you get a professional to do because it will make a difference not only in where your business will start but also where and how it will grow.  
Accounting – Just because you know how to do math or can buy software that says it does what your accountant does it is not quite that easy. Your accountant will always know more than what the software does and figure out ways for you to keep more of you money.    
Graphic Design – Once again it is not as easy as to open up the paint program and make your logo. People will always be able to tell the difference between something professionally made and the one you came up with playing with word.
Marketing services – This includes everything from planning a campaign to actually creating the material. The question is not can I afford it, or at least it shouldn’t be. The question is can you afford not to? Your image and branding are going to be the most valuable part of your business or non profit organization because it reflects everything. Also making sure that you are targeting the money you are using instead of just randomly advertising and creating material that does not deliver results.    
Printing – As tempting as it may be to run a few thousand copies from your printer, then sending or handing it out as a flyer because it saves you a few cents then think about the last time you bought something off a “printed-at-home-flyer”. What makes you think that other people are doing it? Even if you are the exception that does it, then who would you rather target, the majority or the exceptions?   
SEO – Search Engine optimization is something that most people have no idea what is or how to do. Just like most people have no idea what potential a website can have for your business and its growth potential. SEO is a very misunderstood concept for many business owner and they think that it is something that can be bought for low amounts and still deliver results. Unfortunately many people do use professional services but do not get what they hoped to get because they forget to read the fine print.    
Website design – For most business owners this is an absolute no-no just like accounting. The website design is a tricky one to outsource, simply because many website designers are simply that, website designers and have no idea what works and what does not work seen from a marketing aspect. Uncle Bob will not do a great job on your website because he took a few classes, just like he will not do a good job on your accounting because he took a few math classes.
Many website design companies are not any better than Uncle Bob, so be careful not to spend too little with a company that will not consult with you.   There are a few other items that you may want to consider outsourcing, such as getting help hiring people if you are at that stage. Unless you understand your own behavior and other people’s behavior chances are that you will hire people that are like you instead of hiring people that compliment you.    So the next time you are about to spend 3 days on designing your website, doing your taxes or coming up with your logo, then maybe you should think about what do these people know that you do not? After all do you think a graphic designer or an accountant knows as much about your business as you do about theirs?