Doctors & medical students – why it’s important to know the difference…
I expect you’re wondering why this blog post is headed up as talking about Doctors and medical students when I’m more usually found hanging out in the business arena. Well it’s because I love a good analogy and this one is a good one which will help me to illustrate a business point that I’m making.
So, if you go to the Doctor with a problem, there are some occasions when you’d be more than happy to talk to a medical student and there are other times when the intricacies of your particular issue needs some input from someone who has been there and got the video. Now I’m not wishing to take anything away from Doctors in training or newly qualified Doctors – in the latter case they have exactly the same training as a qualified Doctor, have put in a lot of on the job hours and you could argue their training is more current. But for me the difference between qualified and expert is the continued application of that knowledge in the field, solving problems and scenarios that text books and training may not have thrown up.
So I know the above is a broad brush statement and I don’t know the ins and outs of medical training so have probably misrepresented somewhere (for which I apologise – I’m not professing to be an expert in medical matters), but stay up in my helicopter of illustrations and I’m hoping that the principle of what I’m saying makes sense.
So how does that relate to business. So first a fact, the number of self-employed people in the UK rose from 3.3 million in 2017 to 4.8 million in 2018, according to the Office of National Statistics in July 2018. That’s an increase of over 45% year on year. University leavers are finding it ever more difficult to find relevant employment as they finish their degrees and the digital environment that we all operate in means information is readily available. Knowledge is no longer power any more, we can, with no more than a quick search on google, access pretty expert information. But just because I can look up a malady on NHS Direct, does it mean I am safe to diagnose myself? For very basic stuff yes, but the NHS Direct website is very careful to ensure that at various points you are directed to call their helpline, see a pharmacist or make a Doctor’s appointment or call 999 immediately. Each of these actions would yield a different level of expertise relevant to the problem.
That’s where the analogy neatly crosses into my business scenario.
Starting out in your business. When we start a business, we tend to do stuff ourselves and bootstrap, avoiding costs wherever possible until our business baby starts proving itself. If we have some investment funds, our spending of them is very measured and against specific projects – when we do use outside help, the tendency is to ask friends or use people who are accessible within our budget. Then as the business grows a little, your circle grows, you network more – you become better known and people target you to help you with elements of what you do – and that’s where you need to start really thinking things through. There is no hierarchy in business support services and you need to become a bit savvy in which bits will add value for you at different stages and what level of expertise you should be looking for in the people that you are looking at to help you. So I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts with you about the things that you should be thinking about to make sure that you aren’t bringing in a Hospital Consultant to put a sticking plaster on or a Medical Student to perform brain surgery. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, so feel free to add your thoughts, but here’s my take on it. I’m assuming here that you are past the very early stages of doing your own cards at Vistaprint and looking to get some help in – where is it worth spending some money and does that person need to be an expert or an experienced expert?
This is a big one, sitting down and sorting your brand and how you want it to look and feel early on is really important and worth investing in, not mad money at this stage but if you’re stepping up from doing it yourself and are confident in your business, go to someone who knows what they’re doing.Your brand is more than a logo and fonts and an experienced branding person will help you focus your thoughts and will create a foundation for your brand that you can build on in the future. Rebranding is costly and legwork at this early stage will mean that your brand will probably be able to grow and adapt as you change as you grow.In choosing someone to work with, look at examples of what they’ve done – check that you like their style, be comfortable that they understand your brand and be happy for them to challenge you a little – they will be looking to draw things out of you that you may not see as potentials yet – it’s all part of the process.
Again, if you want to move on past the stage where you design and develop things yourself, then it helps if you are clear about who you are as a brand and who your customers are. You need to be looking for someone who has the expertise to deliver you a presence to be proud of online. What you’ll need to spend will depend on the complexity and size of your business, but again I would advise having a look around and visiting a few potential providers. You need the fit to be right and you are looking for someone who can move you forward. Another person who builds websites in the same way that you did for yourself may not push you far enough, look for someone who has experience in helping brands to grow through their web presence, not just building a website. There are many people who can do an excellent job of developing a website, but if you need one that, for example, moves you on to retail more from your website – then again you are looking for an expert with experience in that area, not just an expert,
These days, our smartphones afford all of us the ability to take a decent photo – I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination but my photography suffices for quite a few of my social posts and blogs. However, if I was looking to do a brand campaign, website photography or anything like that, I would always go for an experienced expert photographer. I’ve worked with a lot of photographers in my time and a good photographer is worth their weight in gold. Here I would be looking at their portfolio and the brands that they work with, and again I’d be looking to ensure that they have an understanding of our brand. For example, silver is an absolute pig to photograph as it reflects and that throws a lot of photographers who haven’t had a lot of experience of commercial shoots.Your photography is usually one of the first encounters that your customer has with your brand, it helps you tell your brand story and a good photographer will be able to help you to do that. Experience here can be important, as unless they are a supremely talented start-up, it’s usually hours on the camera that hones the eye and builds the ability to structure a photo so that it’s perfect when viewed, hence I’m saying look for someone who has the experience or talent to do more than you can for yourself.
Like photography, the business advice sector has seen a lot of people setting up new businesses in this area, but not all business advisors are created equal, so make sure you do your homework. Ask questions and establish the experience of the person who is advising you – if they’re a coach, then how many client coaching hours have they put in already? If they’re an advisor, what is their background, what makes them qualified to advise? There is a huge amount of free information out there on the internet, or in business groups like Rhea Freeman’s Small & Supercharged, Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Diggers group and many other such resources. So, if you take the decision to pay someone for advice, make sure that they are going to add more value than it costs you.
PR & Marketing
This is something you can do a lot of for yourself and something that a lot of people will offer to help you with. Listen to Rhea’s excellent podcast about doing your PR for free here – ultimately no-one is going to be as passionate as you about your brand and what you’re trying to do. So in the early days, if you’re comfortable with doing it, it’s an easy way to keep the costs down. If you’re not sure about exactly what to say, then do a course or book a day with someone experienced in your area and hone your message. Then, as you grow, there will come a time when you can add more value elsewhere, but may not need someone to do this full-time in-house. Again, look around and choose what you need accordingly – someone to write a few blogs now and again and maybe responding to some press requests is very different to launching a new product in multiple markets for example – so we’re back to making sure that you have the right person for the job and the bigger the job, the more I would be checking that their credentials and enthusiasm for our brand were right.
Stock & Accounting Systems
OK, so every now and the the Accountant in me gets out! This makes most people I know yawn and roll their eyes, but getting a system established early is a really good discipline and will save you hours at the end of the tax year. Simple stuff like saving and scanning receipts, using the free resources to learn what you need to do and finding someone to do your year end accounts if you’re not doing them. You don’t need anything fancy and Xero or Quickbooks and other accounting packages do the difficult stuff for you, but it’s worth maybe asking a bookkeeper to help you set the system up in the first place if you’re a complete number-phobic.Also, as you get bigger, good accounting support will help you ensure that you are trading legally and are getting the best tax situation sorted out for our own particular circumstances. You don’t need to pay a fortune for it – but good advice when you set things up can save you costly mistakes later.I’m hoping that you can see from the examples above – there are times when experience really matters and can make a big difference to your business, other times talent and enthusiasm will bring you everything you need. Learning to spot the difference is a good skill to work on and will save you money and add value to your business quicker.
This brings me neatly back to my point about start-ups, some of you reading this will be start-ups, maybe in retail, maybe in photography, maybe in business advice – and as yet won’t have loads of experience to offer. You’re still at the medical student or newly qualified Doctor stage – and that is absolutely great. It doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be the right person for the job, people need support at all levels. So just as my advice to people looking for support is to look for the right level of support, my advice to you would be to be clear about where you are in your own development curve, be ready to take jobs to gain experience and learn, work out where the gaps are for you and look at ways to fill them. You’re new and keen and that in itself is a brilliant attribute and very valuable to businesses, you don’t need to hide that fact – and being open about it stops you being dumped into a situation that requires brain surgery rather than a sticking plaster!