We’re constantly seeking ways to both improve our business but do so while saving money at the same time. That can lead to the dangerous dynamic of “I’ll do it myself.” We take on tasks and projects ourselves instead of hiring experts or service providers who specialize in the task. The idea looks good on paper but it can be really stupid (sorta like the kid who tries to give themselves a haircut).
Allow me to illustrate. Many of you own homes. More often than not, something goes wrong with something in your house. Either a pipe gets clogged up, roof shingles fly off, or you simply need a fresh coat of paint. Given we’re all trying to be frugal in a difficult economy, the notion of popping on down to Lowe’s or Home Depot comes to mind with visions of being a handy dandy Bob the Builder “We can fix it!” type of home improvement hero.
We get home with our $376.78 in new tools, shingles, and paint. We carve out an hour or so on Saturday to get the job done because, well… how hard can it be to slap on some paint, snake a drain, or hammer in some shingles, right?
Then the stupidity starts.
The painting isn’t as neat as we would like it and it takes 6 hours to do because we didn’t factor in that we would need three coats. The end result looks less than impressive and we’re frustrated every time we walk into the poorly-painted room.
The roof shingles we bought are the wrong ones and we forgot roofing nails so it’s another trip to Lowe’s, another $168 for the right equipment. We also forgot we’re scared of heights so it takes two days to install the shingles because we spend 86% of our time worrying about falling off the roof. The final job looks like a 7 year old hung the shingles.
While we’re snaking the drain, we determine the clog is beyond the reach of the 20′ snake we bought so we have to buy another 50 footer ($73.28) and it takes 4 more hours to finally unplug the clog.
Oh, and don’t forget to factor in the one hour you thought these things would take have now consumed your entire weekend and you have to go to work tomorrow unrested, tired, and frustrated.
The lesson: while things look simple at first glance, we often underestimate the complexity of the task and the expertise required to do the job right the first time. We lose time and money in the process. On top of that, the end product isn’t of the quality we desire and sometimes we have to call in a professional after the fact to fix the mess we’ve created.
I know all of this seems obvious. But allow me to ask – if this dynamic is obvious, why do we do it at work all the time?
I see it constantly. “Oh, we can design and code our own website in Blogger.” “We can write and deliver a training program just like yours using our internal employees to teach it.” “We can do our own taxes because we have a guy who took accounting in college.”
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
External service providers and experts do these things every day and they do them right. They’re experienced and know all the pitfalls that can happen (and they avoid them). The quality of their products and services are honed based on years of experience creating and delivering them. They’re up the learning curve and are riding high on the crest of it.
When you go the “I’m a big boy! I do it myself!” route, you’re taking your employees away from the job you’re paying them to do and asking them to do something new in borrowed time/spare time away from their core responsibilities. They’re going to experience all the pain of coming up the learning curve and it will take them longer and cost you more to get them to deliver a product or service that will not be of a quality comparable to the products/services of an expert.
On top of that, you’ve taken your employee away from their core job. Let’s assume they’re a salesperson. You’ve now taken away valuable selling time (translation REVENUE) and are instead spending the salary dollars on something that will be lower return because they’re not yet competent at the skill. It’s a double whammy.
Sure, you think you’ve saved money because you haven’t written a check to a third party. What you’ve really done is destroyed value. You did spend money (your employee’s time), you lost money (taking them away from activities that drive the performance of your business), and delivered a lower-quality product that will either hamper the performance of other employees or reduce your competitiveness in the marketplace. If they screw it up badly enough, you’re going to have to bring in an expert anyway first to clean up the mess ($$$) then to deliver the product/service correctly (more $$$).
Stay away from this false economy. Drop your ego and admit certain people do things better than you can. Recognize you can do some things better than anyone else in the world. Focus on what you’re great at and outsource things you’re not. Sports coaches get this (you wouldn’t put a backup quarterback in as a defensive tackle just to save the salary of a high end DT). Your competitors get this. You should get it too.
So the next time you find yourself saying “we’re just going to do this internally” ask yourself the hard question of whether or not you really have the skills to do it right the first time or if you’re just trying to save a buck. If it’s the latter, I guarantee it will cost you a lot more in the long run than it will bringing in someone from the outside who is an expert in that arena.
I’ll admit – I’ve personally been guilty of this stupidity. I built the original thoughtLEADERS blog myself. It was passable but self-admittedly amateurish and somewhat crappy (so crappy that I took the time to redirect every post from it to this new blog). It was only after I spent some cash and had the awesome guys at Brightstar Interactive rebuild my site that I took things to a higher level. I wish I had spent the cash in the first place instead of trying to improve my personal HTML skills which wasn’t the best use of my time and energy.
Yes, this post is a little self-serving. We are experts in delivering certain training programs. It makes my head explode when prospects or clients say “well, we’ll just develop a training course that’s as good as yours and have our employees teach it to each other.” Invariably the outcome ends up being a call to us down the road saying “hey, we couldn’t develop that course and our trainers weren’t good at delivering it or weren’t taking the time away from their day job to teach so can you come help us now?” Or I see their “program” at a later date and it’s tremendously frustrating knowing where the internally-developed offering falls short and how it’s negatively impacting the client’s performance. Please – do it right the first time. I promise you’ll be thrilled with the result.