3 Benefits to Being a Specialist Instead of a Generalist
If you struggle to write a clear and concise sentence (aka. mission statement) about what you do and actually recall it from memory yourself, then there's a good chance that your offerings are too broad to be recalled by others as well.
Think about the people who really CHANGED our world for the better - the ones who are still talked about, quoted, and learned-from hundreds and even thousands of years later. Do specialists or generalists come to mind?
Deciding whether to offer services for a variety of things for a variety of people or niche down and offer more specific services for a more specific clientele is such a tough thing to decide. Over the years I've played both roles and hired both roles and I've come to the realization that I there are so many more benefits to the specialist role. Let me tell you about three biggies that make me feel so strongly about this.
Specialist Benefit #1
People want to hire an expert
I don't know about you, but I want to know with confidence that the person I'm hiring is an expert at working with people like me, in the situation I'm in, with the need that I have. If they are an expert in these things, I know that they are going to be the best at solving my problem, and why wouldn't I want to hire the best?
Let's play a little game.
Would you rather...
Get a heart operation from (a) a cardiac surgeon or (b) a surgeon who has done tons of surgeries but only operated on a heart a few times?
Be represented by a lawyer for your child custody case who is (a) a child custody lawyer or (b) someone whose experience comes mostly from being a public defender and has never handled a child custody case?
Hire someone to help you market your small service business who (a) specializes in marketing for small service businesses or (b) has dabbled in corporate accounts, customer service, knife sales, and has their own social media accounts?
The only people that really want to hire a generalist are people that have a lot of needs (like selling knives, handling customer service calls, and maintaining their own social media accounts...) and are willing to sacrifice quality of service for convenience. There's nothing wrong with these people (and I have been one of these people, except for the selling knives part...), but my personal experience is that the lack of expertise from a jack-of-all trades almost always counteracted the convenience benefit because my problem never got solved as well as I needed it to be and usually caused stress and rework along with wasting time and money. I learned that lesson the hard way and now I will always hire an expert.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but generally, if you are trying to create a successful business based on your skills and expertise, you're more likely to be hired for being an expert.
Specialist Benefit #2
People remember, and tell others about, clear & concise things
If you're trying to tell someone what you do and it requires several minutes to explain, you are likely going to (1) lose their attention, and (2) not be remembered for what you want to be remembered for.
Being a great listener + having a long attention span + having a great memory isn't a combo that, sadly, a majority of humans were gifted with (me included). So, in order to market yourself either in-person or with the messaging on your marketing materials, pretend that everyone who comes into contact with your message:
Sucks at listening/focusing
Will get bored and move on quickly
Can only retain small, important bits of information
In order to market our services in a way that overcomes those three things, we need a very specific and brief pitch, yet it's difficult to market yourself in a specific and brief pitch if what you do is really broad and doesn't have a clear focus.
Wanna try it out to see if you pass the test? Checkout this article on 5 Signs You Need a Mission Statement and this free downloadable guide on How to Write a Killer Mission Statement (with examples).
Okay, back to benefits of being a specialist. Let's think logically about this for a moment. Say that you successfully write your killer mission statement and use it to inspire how you talk about what you do in-person or on your materials. When the people who have heard this message either (a) develop a need you solve for or (b) meet someone else who has a need you solve for, you are more likely to come to mind, and be mentioned in scenario b, as someone who could be hired to solve said problem.
Boom! You have a potential client!
Think about the last time you referred someone, was the person you referred a generalist or a specialist? I strongly believe that you will be more memorable and will get more referrals if you are a specialist because we are more likely to tell friends about someone perfectly suited for their problem than to mention someone who sort of does something that sort of has to do with your problem (that is, if they can recall your not-clear, not-concise, not-memorable pitch in the moment it matters).
Specialist Benefit #3
Make a bigger impact and leave a legacy
Do you think you are likely to have a big impact, be remembered for it, and continue to impact people with your work long after you're gone if you dabbled in this and dabbled in that? Don't get me wrong, you can still make a positive difference by doing lots of unrelated things, but let's reflect on something real quick.
You're probably recalling more specialists, right? I'm not saying to become a specialists for the celebrity status (but go for it if that's a motivator for you!), but celebrity status (and historical significance) is often achieved by being great at what you do - by being a master specialist. It's easier to go deep, and gain mastery, if you aren't going too broad.
Now, this does not mean that in the entirety of your life you can only do one thing. Look at Elon Musk, for example. He is working on so many big endeavors. Do you see the thru-line though? It could be described as creating the technology of the future. You too can have multiple endeavors over the course of your lifetime (though I would recommend that when it's just you or a small team, to start with focus and only launch something new when you have figured it out and expanded your team to take the lead or have moved on from the first endeavor completely).
How about another example, say Procter & Gamble. This company was started by two people, one a candle maker and one a soap maker. It wasn't until nearly 75 years after the company was formed that they expanded their portfolio. Now I'm not saying you have to wait 75 years, but you get my point.
Ready to talk about your awesome specialty?
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Here they are in a nutshell
3 benefits to being a specialist instead of a generalist
#1: People want to hire an expert
#2: People remember, and tell others about, clear & concise things
#3: Make a bigger impact and leave a legacy
So what do you think?
Would you rather be a specialist or generalist?
Need help figuring out your path?
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I’m Stacy, an entrepreneur, strategist, and adventurer dedicated to helping you build a kick-ass business out of your skills & passions. Why? Because I think you should love your life and that’s kind of hard to do if you don’t love your work.
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