Don’t be a Do-It-Yourselfer

I frequently hear small business owners talking about how much money they’ve saved by “doing it themselves.”

The “it” may be building a website, doing electrical wiring, designing a newspaper ad, or setting up an accounting system. And in almost all cases, it’s a mistake for the business owner to do the job!

When the owner takes on an unfamiliar task, the results aren’t going to be nearly as good as results achieved by a professional. In some cases, the tasks may even require specific professional knowledge that the owner lacks. As a result:

  • The website isn’t designed to be indexed by search engines, and it’s difficult to navigate. It fails to bring in any new business.
  • The electrical wiring can’t properly handle the load. Circuit breakers trip frequently, and the wiring eventually needs to be redone by a professional.
  • The newspaper ad doesn’t reproduce well because the owner was unfamiliar with the technical requirements for submission. Moreover, the amateur design creates a “Mom and Pop” impression that is exactly the opposite of the upscale image the business owner wanted.
  • The accounting system doesn’t properly categorize information for tax purposes. At the end of the year, the business owner has to pay his accountant for many hours of extra work to reorganize the year’s receipts.

But the likelihood of poor results isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the biggest concern. The fact is that most small businesses owe the continued success to one or two key factors… things that the business needs to do very well in order to thrive. Time spent on unfamiliar tasks, including the time needed to learn the necessary skills, can be very costly when it takes away from the business owner’s main job.

In other words, if you run an auto repair shop, your time is much better spent repairing cars, or supervising and training your crew, than in building a website or setting up an accounting system.

If something needs to be done for your business, take the do-it-yourself approach only if:

  1. You already have the required skills at a professional level, or
  2. The skills you must learn will be very important to your business in the future.

But what if you can’t afford a professional to do the job?

Look at alternatives. You don’t have the skills to do the job… but do you know someone who does? Can you barter services with a qualified professional? Or, can you make trade-offs in other areas of your business (for example, foregoing a new sign in order to pay for professionally designed newspaper ads).

Above all, keep in mind the time you will spend when you take on an unfamiliar task, and think about what you else could do with that time to advance your business.