You went into business because you were good at X, so why are you spending most of your time doing something else?
According to Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, only 17 percent of the workforce believes they use all of their strengths on the job. That means more than four in five people have potential assets up their sleeve in the form of unused skills, knowledge and/or experience. When you consider that high performance teams call upon their strengths more than 75 percent of the time, that means a great chunk of the workforce is underperforming.
As a business owner, it’s easy to see how you got into this fix. While the core of your business is still the thing you’re good at, the support functions of the business just started to grow to a point where it began to take up more and more of your time. Your role comprises many different activities: some invigorate you, some leave you neutral, and some deplete or bore you.
I’ve written before about spreading yourself too thin and how you need to focus on what you’re good at to regain your edge. Here are some ways to think about your strengths in terms of assets.
Unique selling proposition
You are your business’ greatest asset when you play to your strengths, especially when those strengths are individual to you and form part of your unique selling proposition. If your business only uses a third of your strengths because you’re stuck doing business support the other two-thirds of the time, you weaken the reason people come to you to do business.
Your core business must be revenue generating, otherwise you wouldn’t have started your enterprise. Business support functions that are not part of your strength take you longer to do and take you away from your core business. You will generate more revenue from focusing on your strengths than it will cost to outsource that task, plus you’ll enjoy your work more. Working to your strengths leads you to be more productive, resilient, creative, innovative, proactive and satisfied.
Business owner Lisa Sparks told Entrepreneur.com that too often business owners believe they can do it all themselves, but “that can really stall the growth of the business”. Spending too much time and effort on shoring up weaknesses is an opportunity cost as it prevents you from developing your strengths. It just means you end up with stronger weaknesses.
Think of each task in terms of an investment: how will it advance the business? Improving your skills and expertise in your strong areas will reap better dividends than the potential savings you might make learning to do a business support task yourself.
Know what to outsource
The key to turning your strengths into assets is strategic outsourcing.
- Determine what strengths your customers value, define your core business. Do not outsource any of the functions related to your core business or customers won’t see the difference between what you do and what they can outsource themselves.
- Identify which support functions should be in-house or outsourced. Anything that is not your core business generally falls under the category of ‘support function’, but you may prefer to keep some in-house, particularly in complementary areas. If your business designs specialised widgets for example, you might want to keep the technical drawing function in-house because a close relationship between design and drawing is important.
- Find the gap/s. Outsourcing weaknesses to skilled practitioners or experts is a no-brainer, but what about filling the gaps where you have no skills at all? Many business owners overlook the benefits of outsourcing specialised functions that may be a one-off, for example developing a website, or something they’ve never considered before, like a patent attorney, because these skills gaps aren’t even on their radar.
How do you develop your strengths? Buckingham says to start a discipline beginning with the simple question, ‘How will I ensure that I put my strengths into play just a little more this week than I did last week?’ and ends with “building your job around the best of you”.
What strengths are you currently underusing?