January 7, 2018

Question it

Emulating your heroes, role models, and colleagues is a great way to get your business off the ground.

But eventually, it’s not enough.

Your revenue plateaus. Your margins shrink. And perhaps worst of all, you start losing deals to eager newbies.

So what do you do about it?

You do something original. Something uniquely your own. Something that has never been done in quite the same way.

Something wild. Something risky. Something that scares the living shit out of you.

Ok... fine. But what?

I dearly wish I could tell you exactly how to do something original, but that’d be a paradox (or a logical impossibility or an oxymoron or something like that).

That’s not how being original works. You have to figure it out on your own. The spark has to come from you.

That said, I can point to examples that may inspire you, Or better yet... give you the courage to seize something original that’s been staring you in the face for a while.

I’ll start with an example that is familiar to everyone on this list and that I know from the inside out:

In 2005, I realized with sudden and blinding clarity that hourly billing was the disease that was causing virtually all the painful symptoms that plagued the firm I was managing.

Because of this epiphany, I left to set up my own shop where I vowed to find a better way to price services.

Many of my colleagues were interested in the shift I was making, and I spoke and blogged about it sporadically at their request.

But it wasn’t until ten years later that I actually took what felt like a real risk:

I published Hourly Billing Is Nuts.

HBIN was a rallying cry against the universally accepted practice of billing by the hour for software development. It was a line in the sand. An ultimatum. There was no going back.

I was pretty nervous about publishing this book. I was ESPECIALLY nervous about the title, but the wise folks in my mastermind talked me into sticking with it (and I’m SO glad they did).

There were at least a dozen great pricing books that had been around for years that described the horrors of hourly billing and offered alternatives. None of them were for software developers, but still... who was I to publish a book in the same vein as Alan Weiss or Ron Baker or Reed Holden?

Now, consider your initial exposure and reaction to HBIN. Did it seem to you like I had it all figured out? I didn’t. But I clicked “publish” anyway.

Here’s the thing...

If I was to abstract my HBIN story to a general principle for identifying something uniquely your own, it’d be this:

Question assumptions.

Is there something that your clients see as a self-evident truth, but you see as a faulty assumption?

Is there a particular comment that you often hear from clients that makes you internally shake your head but externally you say nothing?

Is there some situation that you dislike and commiserate about with your colleagues, but never actually address because “that’s just the way it is”?

These are all clues that there is an assumption that needs to be questioned.

Question it. Even if it makes you nervous.