Brad Feld wrote a post recently titled “Know What You Suck At”
I don’t hear people talk enough about what they aren’t good at. First meetings are peppered with “I’ve done this”, “I’ve done that”, “I’m good at this”, “I’m experienced at that.” However, rarely does someone volunteer that they suck at something. I’m often amused by the pregnant pause that comes after I ask “so – tell me something that you are lousy at.”
Brad goes on to list things he doesn’t do well (including driving, which I would echo myself). He couldn’t be more right with what he says. We all have things we don’t do well, and that’s why we need to be aware of them, avoid doing them when possible, and surround ourselves with others who do them better.
But just as dangerous as not admitting what you don’t do well is not knowing what you don’t know. As entrepreneurs, we often have to do things outside of our comfort zone. in the early days of a company, everyone tends to where multiple hats. And chances are everyone is stuck with something they don’t like and probably don’t even really understand.
As I was setting up a new company recently, I was faced with some routine tasks that needed to be done, but because I don’t do them myself regularly, I didn’t know the fastest and most efficient way to get them done. Things like opening bank accounts and getting tax ID numbers for the company, for instance. Rather than making a potentially very costly mistake, I turned to one of the guys in another one of my companies for advice and assistance to make sure it got done right the first time.
And that’s what we all need to be prepared to do. Stop and ask an expert (or at least someone wiser than ourselves) when we don’t know something. Don’t guess. Don’t make it up. Get the knowledge that you need to do the job right.
Of course, sometimes there is no right answer, no clear body of knowledge that will help guide the way. Sometimes you must operate on gut feel, and that’s OK too. Just so long as you don’t believe you know what you are doing and admit your wining it or making a W.A.G.