In our Entrepreneur classes, I often hear new members rattle on about their expertise. For many experienced professionals, it is hard to realize that their professional status carries less effect in the ‘real world’. They don’t realize that having professional qualifications and degrees does not really position them to be successful in entrepreneurial ventures. Indeed, it is likely that having expert degrees has no effect, or, in some cases, actually be a liability.
The reason why expertise is a handicap are many. Firstly, expertise is usually not transferable beyond the institution or industry where you work. Having a technical skill is great for your industry, but entrepreneurship requires a whole different skills set. You must know about marketing, business development, human resources, accounting, and general management. Secondly, expertise doesn’t equate to sales. Having great quality products and services, at affordable prices is critical. There is nothing inherent in being an ‘expert’ that transfers this knowledge on to products. Thirdly, experts are often poor are marketing and promotions. For whatever reason – it may be that they are not overly concerned about what other people think, they look down on sales and marketing, they see anything that devalues their expertise as demeaning. Have you ever noticed that people in your field are leaders but have less competence or expertise? Ask yourself, why is that?
Before you get all uppity and accuse me of being an upstart, I don’t want to dismiss expertise completely. Although I have a PhD from a respectable university, I have to admit that a lot of formal qualifications have limited application. For scientists, engineers, and doctors there are changing skills and demands on their time and knowledge. The Information Age is fast making knowledge more general anyway and this will inevitably result in the decline of many highly regulated industries.
When it comes to entrepreneurial ventures being an expert or a specialist is often a liability. This is because the skills set required for running a business is often beyond the technical skills of the entrepreneur. A further problem of expertise and specialization is that there is a lot of competition, particularly in the development of products and processes.
Let’s return to a previous point. Have you ever wondered why so many mediocre people advance quickly, while other experts do not? One of the main reasons this is the case is that of marketing and advertising, better communication skills, and a willingness to go beyond what is already known to look at new ways of learning and achieving things.
Let’s face it: lots of universities are training specialists and experts who do not have positions or future employment opportunities to go to. Lots of universities are seeking out academic ‘stars ‘ and high profile figures (often who are not the best in their fields, but are the best known.)
Fortunately for most entrepreneurs being good at lots of things and knowing lots about a little is the biggest advantage they can have. Expertise should be shunned at all costs, it is the mark of someone who works for someone else. Instead, look to be a generalist with great communication skills, excellent vision, and an insatiable goal to see the mission complete.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, let the ‘expert’ go and build your business from a more general base. Here are 5 tips to move from ‘expert’ to ‘entrepreneur’:
1. Understand Your Emotional Involvement in a Professional Identity
A lot of people invest a lot of their self in their professional identity. The longer you are in business, it seems, the harder it is to divest yourself from your job. This is paramount to be a successful entrepreneur.
2. Venture into Marketing and Promotions
Look up in your organization. You might be surprised to see those that have advanced quickly are those who are excellent at self-promotion and marketing. If you want to build a reputation as an ‘expert’ outside of the presumably ethical channels of your industry, then you need to do some promotions. Don’t compromise your integrity.
3. Look at the extension of your Professional Identity as a ‘Game’
Let’s face it! Not many people like to put themselves on public display. If you distance your ‘self’ from the advertising and marketing you do, looking at all the activities as a numbers game, and ultimately as a way to share your knowledge with more people, then you are half way there. There’s nothing worse for you and for other people then to be starting out on an entrepreneurial venture in a sombre, morose mood. Cheer Up! It’s all good and you are getting more freedom and independence at the end of the day.
4. Take a class on entrepreneurship
Companies such as Darlo Entrepreneurs offers classes on entrepreneurship, so do many business schools, and some community colleges. Look around. Look in your local community or city and see what additional classes there are to support you. Remember too that just because the people training you may not be in your professional group (or professional ‘class’) doesn’t mean they are not full of great ideas. Embrace and respect this learning.
5. Life Beyond Expertise
The corporate life often takes its toll on people. Most people are miserable in their jobs, hate waking up in the morning, and would do almost anything to steer their ship in a new direction. Now that you have an opportunity to start a venture that you are actually interested in, why not take the trip as an exercise in personal development too? Remember the real you, the non-expert you? Mediocre people tend to be averse to growth, but if it is any sign of your expertise, then be really happy that you have an opportunity to let things go and become an all-rounder.
Breaking free of ‘expertise’ can be a liberating exercise. You have much to gain and almost nothing to lose.
About The Author:
Dr. Brendan Moloney is an author, speaker, and lecturer with Darlo Entrepreneurs. http://www.darloentrepreneurs.com Darlo Entrepreneurs provides business coaching, professional courses, and learning resources to individuals looking to start their own entrepreneurial venture. For further details, visit Darlo Entrepreneurs http://www.darloentrepreneurs.com
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