Can You Ever Know All You Need to Know?

“I know what we have to do.” “I know my customers.” “We’ve covered all the bases.” Have you ever said something like this? That what you already know is all you need to know.

Read this wisdom from retired Marine General Jim Mattis:

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.”

I think back to around 2010, when all I knew from personal experience was to charge by the hour. Everyone in the industry I was working in at the time did it, and they could rattle off a dozen reasons why. They brooked no dissension, or consideration of other options.

I could have stopped there. I could have said “I know my customers” and they will only pay by the hour.

Around this time, I began spending time in a consulting community where there were many ideas about how to charge for what is primarily intellectual property. You deliver what you know to clients and customers who need to achieve a result.

The moment I realized that I didn’t know all I needed to know was when I heard “Charging by the hour is an ethical conflict. The buyer needs their results sooner rather than later, and you benefit from your work taking longer.” No one ever couched hourly billing in terms of ethics. This was brand new and very compelling.

I began to explore alternatives. The ethical conflict became clearer and clearer to me the more I studied and learned. Finally, I knew all the objections to and the support for the alternatives and confirmed my own deep commitment to the ethics of doing business a different way.

In the decade since making the decision to provide high value that leads to the client’s results, and charging a fixed fee commensurate with that value, I have not had one client in that very industry insist on hourly rates. They all appreciate my willingness to do whatever it takes to get to the outcome and that I’m shouldering all the risk if things don’t go as planned. Ethics is an important differentiator.

If I had relied on my own experience and knowledge, I would not be able to continue offering high value outcomes for the many companies who rely on me and Trivers Consulting Group

What Do You Need to Know?

Why do I tell this story? Because the biggest barrier to company growth is believing that you know all you need to know. That enough is enough.

Ask yourself these questions:

How many new tactics has your company implemented in the past 12 months? Review the areas of:

  • marketing
  • sales
  • customer service
  • financial reporting
  • online presence
  • networking
  • involvement in community groups
  • HR policies
  • cultivating and nurturing your clients and customers

The bigger question is what else will you do? Each year creates a new floor from which you have to build. If you’re doing a few new things here and there, what comes next? If you’re not doing anything or very much, why not? Is it because you really don’t know what else to do?

And this leads up back to General Mattis’ point: our personal experience is not sufficient for growth, to meet new demands, and to be a leader. This is not to suggest that you’re incapable or uncaring. It is simply a fact that no one person can, or should, know everything.

Out of Business

Earlier this year I met with the owner of a small independent jewelry store. It was a few weeks after the 2018 holiday season, and she told me that their holiday sales were only 10% of their goal! Her store was in a community where the demographics suggest that they should have had a great holiday season.

She told me things she had done to attract business: mailed 5000 postcards listing all 25 of their services and a hung a banner outside offering watch batteries for $9.99. She rattled off a list of tactics she ‘knew’ she had to implement to grow the business. When I asked how she knew these things, she told me knew from her experience.

In the course of our conversation I observed that these tactics were more appropriate for either discount jewelers (she was not) or high-end stores with national names (she also was not). She shook her head. She just knew what she knew.

Six months later the store closed.

The one thing I know for certain is that if she had looked for input from outside her own experience, she would have had a chance to save her business.

Growth Requires New Knowledge

What gives impetus to growth and owner wealth is frequent injections of new information. The company whose founder and owner says “what do I need to know going forward?” and “what do we need to do in the next year or two?” and “who knows things I don’t know and how can I bring them in to help me?” is the company that grows every year and increases company value and owner wealth.

The business environment is vast. The owners who actively seek new ideas from others are the ones who will make their mark, build the value of their company and increase their personal wealth.

Are you like General Mattis, in that no matter how broad and deep your experiences, you realize there is a limit to how your personal experiences can create growth?

If so, I would be delighted to hear from you. Over the years the Trivers Consulting Group clients who have been delighted with their successes have embodied many of these qualities. Take a look and if you see yourself in the list, give us a call. 703-801-0345.

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