Friday, 1 May 2009

Play to your strengths

In anything that you do, where you absolutely must achieve your objective, play to your strengths. If something you are weak at is needed for success, get someone who does have the skill to do it.

Weakness to Strength

If this weakness is something that features in most of your goals, then do something to get better at it. But again, until it isn't a weakness any more, don't rely on it.

If you haven't got the time to get trained and practice, or you simply don't want to add it to your skills, then recognise that you must always get someone else who has that as a strength to do it.

A typical example - marketing your own art

So you are a craftsperson or an artist, and your work is inspiring, evocative, magnificent, wonderful, the best ever! I know many people like that and most of them are scrabbling to make ends meet (and were even before the credit crunch).

What do they all have in common? They'd rather be doing their art than pushing it. They make half-hearted attempts and give up, they try again and give up. Just like habitual dieters, they never learn the lessons and get good at it... and they don't invest in getting someone in who is.

The other thing I notice is that many of them are good at one or another aspect of marketing but don't address the gaps where they're not.

The only successful artist I've seen locally happens to do a great job at pushing his work. He's got a lady who does part time marketing for him, covering those areas he hasn't got the time for or is no good at.

As for the rest, I've seen him get better and better at in the last two years, initially helping his marketing lady, but now doing more and more of what she used to do.

His reward has been not just survival but a growing base of first-time and repeat customers.

An example from a failed small business

Many years ago I was involved with a small business where I was the silent partner. We employed a lovely lady to do the marketing. She was fantastic at customer care and we were always getting great feedback about both the product and the way customers felt about their experience with us.

However, she hated all aspects of direct marketing; sales letters, cold calling, follow-ups - they weren't skills she had and with her world view, it went against her nature. This meant that she shied away from it and therefore had to be coerced into doing it. As soon as she was left to her own devices, it was back to customer care and the areas where she felt more comfortable.

The upshot was that we were always struggling to get new customers, never quite getting enough, and this eventually led to the downfall of the company.

The mistake that the managing director made was to brow-beat her into taking more training, rather than recognising there was a fundamental disconnect that meant the skills gap could not be addressed by her; we should instead have got a part-timer in who already had the skill.

So in conclusion, don't play to your weaknesses -- play to your strengths, and get someone else, someone proven who can cover off your weak areas.

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