May 14, 2012

The Lesson of Skill Transformation (Also known as “You’re Good at Many Things”)

One week down, many weeks to go. I’ve met 700 people on the $100 Startup tour so far, and looking forward to seeing many more.

This week: Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, and Denver.

Tour dates and cities here.

And have I mentioned… THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT! I’m extremely grateful.

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Continuing the theme of lessons learned, today let’s talk about skills.

In short, no matter what you think, you have them. Not only do you have general skills, you have skills that are marketable. You are good at something that can be parlayed into a business model.

The thing is, these skills may be different than you first realize. They may need to be reworked or repositioned somehow. But the central premise is:

If you’re good at one thing, you’re good at something else. Often the “something else” is where you’ll find the business model.

For example…

In London, Kat Alder was a waitress with good communication skills—her customers were always complimenting her and giving her good tips. She was good at providing recommendations and gently upselling them in a way they were happy about. Then someone said, “You know, you’d be really good at P.R.”

Kat was originally from Germany and wasn’t even sure that P.R. stood for Public Relations. After she was let go from another temporary job at the BBC, she thought back on the conversation. She still didn’t know much about the P.R. industry, but she landed her first client within a month and figured it out. Four years later, her firm employs five people and operates in London, Berlin, New York, and China.

If you’re a teacher, you’re also good at crowd control and discipline. You’re good at lesson planning (teachers don’t have much time to prepare) and you’re good at staying on track. You’re probably also good at seeing the long-term, since the best teachers incorporate an arc in their teaching; what you learn now is related to broader principles that you learn over time.

Similarly, if you’re an engineer, you’re a good problem solver. You’re good at analytical thinking and creating solutions. Brandon Pearce built a multiple six-figure business providing a solution to music teachers who were busy teaching and not as good at running their business.

The point is that sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious—but you already have the skills.

I also wrote about this last month in a post that wasn’t sent by email. Here’s how Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, puts it:

I succeeded as a cartoonist with negligible art talent, some basic writing skills, an ordinary sense of humor and a bit of experience in the business world. The “Dilbert” comic is a combination of all four skills. The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That’s how value is created.

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One more thing: if you aren’t sure what skills you have that could be marketable, focus on the questions people ask you. Everyone’s an expert at something, and you may discover your specific skills by understanding what other people already see in you.

That’s it for today… I’m now back on the road to Chapel Hill and beyond.

Wherever you are, have a great week!

Chris

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The $100 Startup is just $14 at Amazon.com. You can also pick up or request the book at your favorite local bookstore.

Lots of people are asking about the Kindle version. It’s been experiencing a glitch that causes it to disappear from the listing, but should be back soon.

Image: James