The Difference Between Expertise And A Service


Thursday, 5.34am

Sheffield, U.K.

For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you. – Neil deGrasse Tyson

In the last post I set out a template to analyse the resources you have and figure out what increases them and what depletes them.

If you know this, then you know more of what you need to do more of and also what you need to do less of.

There’s a missing piece – how to list the resources you have in the first place, or perhaps which ones are essential or important – and I need to expand on that in one of the posts.

But first, imagine you have thought a little bit about the resources you have, what does that mean for your strategy when it comes to Getting Started?

How valuable is expertise?

Most of us start in a career and develop expertise in a particular role.

If you think of that expertise as a dot, you start with nothing on a page.

On your first day, as you’re inducted and introduced to what you’re going to be doing, you make your first dot.

And then, over the next few years, that dot representing what you know and what you can do expands, it gets bigger and bigger.

You know more, you have experience, you know how to carry out your task efficiently and competently.

You’re more valuable.

Well, as long as you bring in enough revenue to cover your costs, that is.

In the early days you’re cheap, hungry to learn and willing to work for little money or even free.

The size of your dot increases rapidly as you suck in knowledge.

Then, over time, things start to slow down.

You know a lot, you can do a lot, and you’re paid a lot.

And at some point the balance starts to tip – where what you bring in as revenue and what you contribute as a cost start to look around the same.

At which point many employers will look around to see if there is someone new and young and hungry and cheap who can do what you do.

Now, no one would argue that expertise is not important.

But expertise, in a world where information is universally accessible and costs virtually nothing, expertise has stopped having value in itself.

When I go to the pharmacist, I often know more about what I have and what is needed because I’ve searched the web than they do.

There are numerous places where expertise still matters – you want an experienced surgeon doing that work on your knee rather than the local barber.

But in many other places the expertise you have is taken as a given, it’s what everyone competing for a piece of business needs to have to even be considered.

But, increasingly, you cannot make the case for adding value based on bringing expertise.

You have to do something else.

Get the customer from A to B

One way of creating value is by using your expertise to get the customer from A to B, from one place to another.

For example, if you are a writer, your copy editor will go through your text and look for any places where you’ve used language incorrectly.

That gets you from one printout to another printout that should have fewer errors.

That’s a valuable service, delivered using expertise to move the task of getting a book published along a few steps.

On the other hand you might need a temp to do some paperwork or fill orders for a bit.

That needs someone with a different kind of expertise.

If you focus on expanding your expertise, you are developing yourself as a dot, someone who does one task and moves things along a little – a step at a time.

But that’s clearly not enough to build a business – you need more.

What you need are lines

If you want to build a business or produce a project you’re going to have to take quite a few steps.

Yes, you might start with what you know right now, your expertise.

But you’ll quickly find that there are lots of other things that you need to have and do – and you can’t always just buy them in or outsource the work.

For example, you’ll need to learn marketing, lead generation, sales and conversion before you deliver any services.

You’ll have to deliver those services competently.

Then you’re going to have to bill and chase and account for what you’ve done.

And these top level projects have multiple sub-projects that you need to sequence and do.

But it’s all those small pieces of work lined up and completed that actually create value for a customer.

What matters is lining up all those dots of expertise so that you make a line that takes the customer from where they are to as far along the journey they want to take as you can take them.

You know this intuitively – it’s connecting the dots – but it’s harder to do well than it looks.

But if you get it right you’re performing a useful service.

How to create value

So far, what we’ve looked at is unpacking the idea of expertise as something that is useful – but limited.

A service, on the other hand, is when you line up all those dots of expertise to help a customer get from a start point to further along their journey.

Actually, expertise is just one of the types of dots you can put in there.

All the other resources you have also play a part.

Moving from thinking in terms of dots to thinking in terms of lines is a necessary first step to getting started.

But you also need to figure out if that line you’re drawing is going to be a valuable one.

We’ll look at how to work that out in the next post.


Karthik Suresh

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