I was having a discussion with a long-time friend and one of my favorite people in the world this week. She was telling me about completing her accreditation as a personal trainer and was in the process of deciding which course to enroll in next. Soon after discussing her ideas and options our conversation turned to the topic of owning your own business. My friend expressed her desire to eventually own her own business rather than work for someone else.
Out of curiosity I asked her “why don’t you start a business now?” My friend is one of the most positive, upbeat people I know – one of those people that make you feel more energized. She truly sparkles. In addition she is talented and creative – an artist, a jewelry maker, incredible teacher, highly knowledgeable on nutrition and fitness, has lived and worked around the world – you get the picture – the list could go on.
Her reply to my question confirmed for me once again that it isn’t about what we often think - time and money. For women it frequently runs much much deeper. It is what I like to call the “Expert Syndrome.” A syndrome that is way more common to budding women entrepreneurs than their male counterparts. What are the signs of this syndrome? You have a list of courses or accreditations you still need to do before you will be expert enough to launch your own business. You think you don’t have the experience needed to start your own business. Or maybe you think who am I to start a business - I’m not an expert at anything. If any of this is starting to sound familiar then you could be effected.
Believe me, I am well versed in the Expert Syndrome being a chronic sufferer myself for many many years. It kept me stuck in the 9-5 world working for someone else when all I really wanted was to work for myself. I kept researching more programs and courses trying to find the right one that would finally give me what I needed to take the leap. In the end some wonderful mentors intervened to help me recover. Otherwise I would still be in a job I dislike. Secretly googling “what course do I need to take to become an expert?” rather than sitting here writing this article for my business that I am truly passionate about. I realized for me it stemmed from the fear of not being good enough or of being judged in what I did. Also from a lack of confidence and belief in my own unique gifts and talents.
So here are my top 3 tips I learned along my journey of recovery from the “Expert Syndrome”
Tip #1 Shift Your Mindset of Expert. What does being an expert really mean. The definition of expert is a person with a high degree of skill or knowledge of a certain subject through experience or training. Does that mean to be called an expert writer we have to have won the Pulitzer Prize, or to be an expert entrepreneur we have to be the next Steve Jobs? Absolutely not!
It is time to shift our thinking about what being an expert really means. First, there is likely always going to be someone out there more expert than you. That goes for even the people we view as experts in their field. This is good news that we can use to our benefit and I will talk about more in the next tip.
When you really reflect on that definition of expert wouldn’t we all be an expert at something simply through our life and work experiences? Certainly our unique experiences will make us more of an expert than many other people in that area. For example, if you have raised 3 kids while working you would be considered an expert in this topic to those new moms that are just embarking on this journey. Simply by having lived and gone through this experience in your life.
So think about the experiences, work, etc you have done over your life. There is certainly something you could consider yourself more expert in than someone else, or many other people. People who would benefit and be excited to learn from what you have to offer based on your experience. Expertise is relative. Of course, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying go out there and pretend to be an expert in something you are not – for instance a doctor. Just realize we all have an expert inside of us.
Tip #2 Bring in the Experts to fill the gaps. Maybe you want to start a business to teach people how to market their business most effectively to make more profits. However, despite your many years of a successful marketing career you feel like you are lacking expertise in the social media-marketing world. Does that mean you should go out and get your Masters in Social Media before launching your business? No! Instead find someone else that is an expert in that field and create a partnership with them. Invite them to do special guest blogs, or to do bonus classes, or record an interview with them on social media marketing you offer to your clients. Through this process you will also increase your own expertise in social media marketing.
Many women out there who have no experience in product development have successfully launched incredible businesses simply by seeing a need to be filled through their own experience. Spanx is a great example. Sara Blakely simply had an idea when she couldn’t find the undergarment she really wanted. She new nothing about designing or making undergarments. Instead she brought in the experts to design and manufacture the idea for her. It is now a $1 billion company. So don’t let a gap in your knowledge or experience hold you back from starting your business. Instead find the experts and build a support team of people who can fill in those gaps.
Tip #3 Business Success Is Not About Being the Expert. Your level of expertise is not the determining factor of whether your business will succeed or fail. In the long run being the leading expert on something does not mean you are more likely to create a thriving business then someone “less expert.” Richard Branson was certainly no leading expert in the music or airline industry. Yet he built an empire around both of these products. Jillian Michaels holds a personal training certification and has her own experience in struggling with weight issues. Certainly not qualifications we would see as making her a leading expert in health and fitness. Yet she has a built a multi-millionaire dollar empire around this. There are many moms out there who have made millions launching a new product. Not because they were experts in product design. Simply because they saw a gap in the market for something they were looking for while being a mom.
So how did they create empires around something they had little expertise in? Well it started with the first two tips. Shifting their mindset around what an expert is and seeing the value in their own life experience such as being a mom or struggling with weight issues. Then filling in the gaps with other experts. Branson himself claims his success to hiring well and having great mentors.
There are many factors that will contribute to your business success. Your resourcefulness, mindset, ability to create relationships with your clients, the people you surround yourself with and partner with, your approach to business, your commitment and perseverance, your problem-solving abilities. These are things that will set you apart from the rest. Not how many letters or qualifications you have listed after your name.
So before you go and sign up for the next course on your path to becoming an “expert” think about this. There are people out there just waiting for you to start your business. People that will benefit from the experience and expertise you already have to offer. So it’s time to finally take action. Don’t keep them waiting anymore!
Remember, “We are all experts in our own little niches.” - Alex Trebek
So find out what that is for you.
To finding your unique expertise,
Karen Steele is Founder of The Entrepreneurial Working Mom where she teaches overwhelmed working moms the confidence, courage and skills to ditch the 9-5 and leap into their own thriving business so they can create the life they want for their family. Karen is a Certified Professional Life Coach, mom and entrepreneur. Download her FREE 5-part audio series “Top 5 Mindset Secrets of Savvy & Successful Entrepreneurial Wo...: So You Can Ditch the 9-5 and Create the Life You Want for Your Family.”