Stokes: Stack Your Skills

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For a long time, I was one of those Jack of all trades shop owners; I had three stores and I knew enough (read: a little) about a lot of things to be successful. And it worked great—until it was time to grow beyond that. Suddenly, that became a weakness. The business is growing, we’re opening more shops and now I have to hand off marketing, then the numbers. As you start to hand things off, your focus gets more and more narrow. That means that whatever you’re focused on, well, you better be the best at it. If you’ve handed off the right items, you’ll be left with your core competency, your core strength. 

But if you haven’t handed off the right things and grabbed hold of the right things, you're going to meet those jack-of-all-trades guys that have it decently together on everything, but they never get past making $300,000 per year in net profit or $2 million in gross annual sales.

There are people that have a certain set of skills—a talent stack, as I like to call it—that are unique to them and make them uber successful. Then the question on the flip side of that is, once you recognize your talent stack that's helping you get to that next level, who are you recruiting around you for your weaknesses? That’s really the key piece for me.

When you see somebody that levels off, people always want to blame fear. I don't think that's it; I think that fear comes after what the real problem is, which is that they don't have those right people around them.  

For example, let’s say I’m weak at sales. I’ve gone out and hired people around marketing leadership, management, recruiting, but I stick with the sales because I think I’m good at it and because I’ve always been able to play “the owner card.” Oh, I should buy because you’re the owner and you must know what you’re talking about. So, I’ve never actually acknowledged that I’m weak at sales, let alone worked on it.

If you stop and think about it, your place of authority is what's allowing you to get the sale, not your skillset. And the problem is, I can't give my authority to someone else like I can give them my hat. How can I teach somebody how to get into a relationship, close the sale, and then go to the next level if I’m not that skilled at it myself? That starts a ripple effect: I'm not great at selling so I can't sell somebody on working for me. I can't sell managers on an idea. I can't sell a new process to my employees. 

I just make the appearance that I can sell. And so, because I keep making this appearance, people don't get any better around me. The shop just keeps hitting a ceiling, and although I might be making good money, I’m not really crushing it. I could have 10 stores but there’s a guy down the street doing $350,000 per month and he’s making more than me because he’s out running his overhead. He's just crushing it. 

You’ll always have that missing piece because you’ve never focused on improving that skillset. Trust me, once you get that one extra skill, it's the final link. If you get the right talent stack—oh, my gosh. All of a sudden now, your value to the world is way up and you're breaking records.

But if you don't identify, “Hey, I'm kind of weak at that,” and take action on it, you’ll always be missing that final piece. A lot of people don't do that. And so then the reason they don't grow and open the next door is yes, they are afraid that next door isn't going to go well, but they are actually afraid because their weakness is starting to get more and more exposed.

No one expects you, an entrepreneur, to know everything. But what every successful entrepreneur needs to possess is the self-awareness to see themselves clearly—the good, the bad and the ugly—and craft a team that is better at it and go, “Why don’t you teach that to other people?”

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