Monday, February 19, 2007

Money and Competence - continued

In the previous post, I argued that there are two levels of competence that matter for your SMB consulting practice:

"Level Two" is your area of High Competency

"Level Three" is your area of Low or No Competency

Did you ever watch Gilligan's Island reruns? The Professor was my favorite character. He knew every language and everything about anything remotely related to "science." Physics, botony, geology, electronics, aviation. He knew everything.

You're not the Professor of Computers.

You're just not.

Too many consultants in our business take on every job they can. They grab the ones where they're not competent just as quickly as the one where they are competent.

No one expects you to know everything. It's perfectly okay to call in an "expert" when you need one.

At the Microsoft Launch event last week, a local consultant came up to my table and said almost exactly these words: "Sometimes we get in over our heads right away on a job. It would be nice to have someone to call on. . . ."

Huh? You just walked up to my table and told me that you're incompetent and take on jobs you can't handle. Why do you do that?

Why do you do that?

Then he proceeded to ask me if I'd heard about these streams of data that are in all files, where Microsoft can hide data and run programs on your computer, and send information about your licensing without any possible way to detect it.

He was lucky the table was too wide for me to reach over and slap him.



If you're going to be in this business, take it seriously. Learn what your computer does and does not do. NEVER be the person who puts on an aluminum foil hat and stands over the computer with two sticks, telling the client that everyone has problems with this.

Never use lines line "Microsoft knows this is a problem. Everyone has this problem. There's nothing we can do about it." I've never found that line to be true. I've found that I needed to do more research. I needed to invest time and money to come up to speed.

For all the crap Microsoft gets about being proprietary, their technology is about the most "open" you could ask for.

You want to learn about every level of every file transaction at every ethernet layer? It's online. For free. And indexed. With blogs and usergroups and cross references. And the broader community, outside of Microsoft, has even more resources.

Go educate yourself!

When you know something cold -- absolutely master the knowledge -- you can solve lots of problems very quickly. You can clean up after the incompetent technician who billed the client for 16 hours and didn't solve the problem. You can be a real hero.

But real heros have super powers. That doesn't come from some drivel you heard and repeated about "secret files." Your super powers come from your ability know everything about every aspect of some technology.

How do files move into and out of Exchange? What is a protocol?

How can I solve this problem without making every user a domain administrator?

< /end diatribe >

We all start out incompetent.

But once we decide we want to do something for a living, we have an obligation to educate ourselves and take it seriously.

Please go read the post on Money and Competence. Do the inventory. Define very precisely where you have your core competency. Feel good that you can do those chores and make money hand over fist. Live in that space. Work in that space. Be supremely competent in the things you do. And be successful.

But also be very honest about "the next level" of tasks. There are some things you do, but you don't do well, or you don't master. Figure out how to increase your competency in these areas. Move up. Master a new technology -- gain a new super power -- and add that to your core competencies. Make even more money and have even more success.

Please Note: You cannot simply DO the thing you wish to add to your core competencies. You need to learn it and master it and DO IT RIGHT.

It hurts all of us when incompetent technicians take on tasks they can't handle. Clients become suspicious. They view our profession as one step above used car salesmen. On some days, not above.

One of the hardest things I face when I try to get business owners to go along with the managed services model is the belief that you can trust you computers to a consultant. Overwhelmingly, these people think computers are difficult and networks are troublesome. Something's always going wrong. Something's always broken. It seems like every week some time bomb goes off because of an improperly configured component.

These people have never seen how smooth and trouble-free a network can be. Because they've either done it all themselves or they've relied on incompetent or marginally-competent technicians.

There is no better example of a moving target than keeping up with technology.

If you're going to be in this business, the group of things in which you have low or no competency will continue to grow. Forever. You need to make self-education and self-improvement a regular part of what you do in your job.

And if you still rely on bullsh*t stories about secret files, just make sure there's a wide table between you and a competent technician.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:27 PM

    Hi Karl,

    I have to totally agree. I have had "consultants", and I use that term losely with these types of folks, ask for my help when they get over their head. I have thought exactly what you said, WTF! Why are you taking on jobs you don't have a clue how to handle professionally?

    The other side of the coin that I see is older technicians that hate (and yes they have told me they hate MS)Microsoft and everything they do. How can anyone hate such a large part of their world?

    Boggles the mind.....

    Dave Jordan


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