Shouldn’t Dave be thinking like Donald? – Why small business owners should listen to the experts

Shouldn’t Dave be thinking like Donald? Knowing what you don’t know - Why small business owners should listen to the experts

Shouldn’t Dave be thinking like Donald? – Why small business owners should listen to the experts

Shouldn’t Dave be thinking like Donald? Knowing what you don’t know - Why small business owners should listen to the experts

Remember Donald?

No – not that Donald … although he’s possibly just as loathsome.

On this occasion, we mean Donald Rumsfeld, the most dangerous man ever to have held the post of U.S. Defence Secretary.

So you’re wondering – “What can a man like Donald Rumsfeld teach us about running small businesses?”

The answer lies in his most famous quote, which goes like this –

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say; there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Confused? OK – skip the first few sentences of the quote. It’s the last one that interests us here.

Dave – the man with the Midas touch

Have you noticed how self-assured so many small business owners seem to be? OK, perhaps ‘self-assured’ is a little polite. How about ‘arrogant’, ‘egotistical’, ‘selfish’? Am I being unfair? Maybe. It could be that these characteristics are simply a necessary part of the entrepreneur package. Let’s take Dave as an example.

Dave recently set himself up as a one-man-band acupuncturist. He’s a real expert in his trade. He knows his Yin from his Jing and his Yang from his Yuan as well as anyone. He has client contacts too, and before long, his business is up and running.

Things go well. Dave’s business takes off and makes a nice profit. The money rolls in. So far, so good, but here’s the danger-point. Dave starts believing he’s infallible. In no time, he becomes complacent, convinced of his expertise, not just in the service he offers, but in every aspect of the business. “I’m doing great. I must have the Midas touch. Why would I look elsewhere for advice?” The lone furrow Dave has been boldly ploughing runs ever deeper. He grows oblivious to the need to look objectively at every aspect of his developing business – to consider that change might be an option.

Flying solo, Dave doesn’t enjoy the luxury of fellow board members, specialist in-house advisors or trusted lieutenants. He’s on his own, with no-one at his shoulder to make suggestions or to act as a sounding-board.

Dave does it all by himself.

“There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

And this is where Donald Rumsfeld comes in –
Dave, along with thousands of fellow small-business owners, doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

He doesn’t know that the off-the-shelf website he cobbled together from a £20-per-month platform isn’t doing the job it should be doing. He doesn’t know that the business plan he scribbled out on the back of pack of needles isn’t effective. He doesn’t know that the logo he designed for himself is clumsy and unattractive. He doesn’t know that his social media posts are uninspiring to potential clients. He doesn’t know that his web copy is dull and awash with waffle.

The problem isn’t just that he doesn’t know this stuff. It’s that he doesn’t know he doesn’t know it. The result? Dave battles on with his business, relishing the good times, tolerating the bad, thinking that, because he’s making a bit of profit, that, well … he must be getting everything right.

Of course, Dave could be the owner of any small business. A plumber, a builder, a lawyer, an architect, a copywriter. He could even be … you!

Bring in the experts

Now – imagine you ask a web developer to look at your website, a business coach to check your business plan, a graphic designer to critique your logo, a social media specialist to analyse your Facebook posts and a copywriter to review your web copy.

Initially, it won’t cost you a penny. Any service provider worth her or his salt will gladly give a free review of your business. Let’s say you engage each of these specialists and individually, they bring improvements to your turnover – perhaps to the tune of 5%. That’s an overall 25% increase. This has come about simply because you recognised that, although your initial success is down to your own specialist expertise, there are plenty of areas which might just need improving.

In other words, you know what you don’t know.

The moral? Accept that you might not know it all. The experts are there for a reason. Give them a chance to help your business get to where it needs to be.

And finally – thank you, Donald! It’s good to know that, somewhere along the way, you did good.







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