2011 marks my second year of running Human Business Works, and it will be my fourth year working with CrossTech Ventures in one capacity or another. In my first year of running New Marketing Labs, my marketing startup, I made a first year revenue of just shy of one million dollars (we were $18,000 short). I doubled it the year after. My first year running HBW made me a little less money, but I'm on track to my most successful company yet.
None of this is to brag. Instead, I want to explain something: I am an amateur.
In Praise of the Amateur
There is no recognized college for bloggers. There isn't some obvious career path for Internet entrepreneurs. No one showed me a right and a wrong way to video blog, to build a team, to invest. I just figured it out as the skills came necessary, and/or I hired when I knew that I couldn't do certain things.
Our parents did this. My dad wasn't a carpenter, but he knew enough to shim up a floor that needed less squeaking. My mom attacked a new role at the phone company that involved a lot of technology, knowing that she couldn't even program the clock on the VCR (back when such devices existed). We all were raised to believe in trying things for ourselves, figuring out as much as we could, and then learning. And yet, there are an amazing amount of people out there telling you to leave such and such a task or chore for the experts. Bull.
Observe, Model, Experiment, Reflect, Retry
That's the simple formula for it all, really. Observe what others might or might not have done. Model the parts that make sense. Experiment to make the process make sense in your own mind. Reflect on what works or what doesn't with your experiment. Retry the process until it really works. For good measure, let's add "consult" into the "reflect" stage, because sometimes, you need an outside angle.
What can't you figure out? You want to improve your sales? Observe your own situation, and then observe a successful sales organization that you think you can model. Guess on what makes them a success, model that into your own processes, and then experiment. Try something based on that observation. Reflect after an appropriate amount of time, and then see what you have to retry for next time.
We are Trained Into Domestication
There's no challenge in your business that you can't handle. Sometimes, that will mean bringing in some outside help. But never, ever, ever decide that you aren't the person for a challenge simply because you're the amateur. In fact, count it as a value that your amateur status might give you the chance to shoot past everyone else who thinks they're doing it right. Experts, don't forget, tend to stick with the same formula, whether or not the environment has changed. You're not held to those restrictions. Huzzah!
The more times someone says you're not qualified to do something, the more opportunities you have to smile warmly once you show them otherwise. Is this a foolhardy way to run a business? Yes, it most certainly can be. And yet, part of what makes running a business worth it is realizing that risks are what lead you to rewards. Cheers to the amateur. Cheers to you and me. And let the experts smirk and smug their way into thinking we're not going to hand them their hat.
Chris Brogan is president of Human Business Works, an online education and community company. He blogs regularly at chrisbrogan.com.