From the April 1998 issue of Startups

Experience has taught me many things--among them, stick to what you do best and leave the rest to others. Just because you're an expert in your own sphere doesn't make you an authority in everyone else's.

It may be noble to think we can do it all, but we can't. In fact, we've seen an increasing number of business owners create major problems for themselves by assuming responsibilities that go far beyond their levels of expertise. In an attempt to do it all, "do-it yourselfer" business owners may be doing their businesses in.

Of course, handling certain aspects of our business made sense in the start-up stages. At some point, all of us have probably tackled one aspect of our business or another. When a business gets to a certain point, however, this do-it-yourself method no longer suffices. Entrepreneurs who continue to rely on amateurish methods beyond this point develop a mentality that stifles growth and presents an unprofessional image to their customers.

When entrepreneurs do it themselves, it costs more in time, energy and resources, especially when complex problems arise that they're not prepared to handle. Many learn too late that the best time to hire a specialist is when you don't need one.

It's understandable that busy business owners want immediate answers to their problems and instant, cheap relief. But in a highly competitive, rapidly changing, increasingly complex business environment, entrepreneurs stuck in the do-it-yourself mode are moving their businesses backward and falling way behind their competitors.

Successful homebased business owners have learned how to shift gears, work out the kinks in their businesses, and prepare and plan for growth. They understand the pitfalls of going it alone. They're able to make responsible decisions based on the needs of their businesses and their customers, rather than on themselves. They're moving their businesses ahead by taking advantage of opportunities and enlisting the aid of specialists who know how to help businesses grow beyond the individual limitations of the business owner. Perhaps most important, they've learned to master tools of information. They're learning from the experts they bring in, gaining valuable insight, new information and a broader sense of what it takes to accomplish certain tasks.

Business owners don't have to remain stuck in the do-it-yourself mentality. Knowing when your expertise ends and another's begins, then concentrating your energies on the areas in which you excel--this is the best way to make the transition between the start-up and high-growth phases and set your business on a successful path. Relying on the same thing to get you by will do just that . . . get you by. It won't help you prosper, and it definitely won't help you move ahead.


Debra Schacher, a marketing communications consultant, is president of Dare to Dream Marketing Services in Irvine, California, and chair of the National Home Office & Business Opportunities Association.