What got you here won’t get you there


Imagine, if you would, that you've spent the last several years becoming an amazing software developer. Additionally imagine that you've started building amazing software products for sale. They're coded well. They're fast. They're easy to use.

What got you here (great programming) won't get you there (successful sales).

Maybe that's not you. Maybe you've been a people-person. You're always talking to folks, getting their input and trying to bring people together for whatever cause drives you – at home or at work. It translates to a promotion at work because you're so good with people. But now you're the boss and you have to make decisions – on your own.

What got you here (consensus building) won't get you there (executive decision making).

Maybe I haven't captured you yet. Maybe you've been a presenter, musician, photographer, or writer. You're a creative. And you're good. So good that people are starting to hire you to help them. And you're great at it – they love you. But now it's time to manage schedules and invoices.

What go you here (your art) won't get you there (successful business).

You see where I'm going, right?

There are two responses you can have to this reality – that you can't do everything and be everything that you may need, in order to succeed.

One response is the delusional workaholic. I know, it sounds mean. But I've been this guy. So I can use the label. If you're like me, you smile at this article and say – “you're right Chris, most people can't do it all, but I plan to.” See what I mean by delusional and workaholic?

The other response is the strategic networker. Are you seeing that I have a preference between these two options? I do. And here it is – you choose carefully to develop your network to find the kinds of complements so that others can help you.

Now, the reality is that both of them take just as much work. But the first is ridiculous because when you tire out, you have nothing to show for it. The second approach will always have a network of friends and folks that could help in a pinch.

Now, I'll caveat all of the above to say that I do know some people who are triple threats – good with technology, good with people and good with business. But seriously, that's a really short list. Most of us fall into the “pick one or two” areas to develop.

What got you here won't get you there…but…

But the truth is that you can still get there. It just requires something more than what brought you to this point.

This past week I was emailing with an online friend who had some questions for me. To summarize the dialogue, the question boiled down to something this simple:

Is it ok to just want to write code and not deal with anything else?

Remember when I wrote that you don't have to know how to code? Well the same logic applies to the opposite side of that coin.

If all you want to do is code, that's fine. You can add value that way. The trick is finding others who want to tackle the non-coding stuff.

So how do you find a complimentary partner to work with?

Here are three things I find are most important to do.

1. Worry about Perspective instead of Skill match.

Most people start by looking for a skill match. By that I mean, they think, I write code so I need to find someone who doesn't write code.

That's not true. More importantly, even if you find that, you won't necessarily find a great partner. Just because they can't do what you can, doesn't mean they're a perfect fit.

Instead, make sure that your perspectives on the market you're in match. That's far more critical than skill match. If you want to sell down market and they want to go up market, you'll have harder times than if you find the perfect non-overlapping skills.

2. Looks for at least 30% skill overlap.

Most people think – I do business, so I'll look for a coder. Or the opposite. But there's not enough overlap to really develop the respect and trust you need. Instead, it can feel like one of you is being held hostage by the other.

Instead, look for someone who knows what you do, but either prefers to do something else, or can't do it as quickly as you. In that way, there's overlap and that will drive smoother trust development and decision making.

3. Look for folks with growth rather than fixed mindsets.

I can't go into all of Carol Dweck's research, and I think I've written about it here somewhere. But the short version is that some people see skills as fixed (like what you were born with) while others don't (they think anything can be developed).

This is critical because as you start working together, you'll find new and better ways to split up work, and you may even step into new spaces – and you want your partner to be flexible and see potential, rather than locking you (and them) into your original roles.

Getting There…

When you focus on these three activities, I find that you'll discover far more partners than you can work with. I know my list of people I want to collaborate is longer than the days in any given year.

Now, you may have read this whole article and still wonder how to go about the networking thing. Maybe that's not you. Well here's good news. Others are natural networkers. Find them. Get to know them. And let them connect you to others.

I was at BlogWorld (New Media Expo) in January this past year and I met Pam Ann, of Pam Ann Marketing. After talking for 10 minutes, she said (barely knowing me) – you need to meet Dino Dogan of Triberr. That's how networkers work. They see it. And they do it.

Find them and connect. And then act. I followed up with Triberr and Dino and it's been great getting to know him and his company.

I don't know what got you here, but hopefully some of this will help you get there.