Be an expert, or just look like one

Written by Ismail Abdur-Rahman, CEO

Go ahead, admit it. When you first started thinking about the whole becoming an entrepreneur thing (after all, becoming an entrepreneur is a 'thing' nowadays, isn't it?), somebody you trust told you to learn whatever you need to learn and become a recognized expert in your industry, right? I know, it's happened to many of us. As a matter of fact, I remember someone giving me the same sage advice when I was a young buck fresh out of college.

To be fair, at one time (read: long, long ago, in a land far, far away), that was probably useful advice. However, since the days of stagecoaches and ten gallon hats are gone with the wind, that way of thinking should also be retired as soon ass possible. Go ahead, ask me....."Why?"

Well, to be very honest, the world is different now. Back in the days when the internet was still  ARPANET, becoming recognized as an industry expert was a lot simpler. There were fewer people excelling in particular areas, and know-how was at a premium. Maybe this was also partially due to the fact that in that age, much beneficial knowledge was siloed; getting a post-secondary education was not nearly as accessible as it is now, so there were far fewer people who could be looked upon as 'experts' on account of their education, experience, skills, or some combination thereof.

Fast forward to the new millennium....everything is different. Nowadays, people are able to study courses from universities in foreign lands they have never visited, without leaving the comfort of their own living rooms. As a result, gaining 'expert' knowledge is a lot easier than it used to be. Want proof? Let's say you are starting a business and want a slick website to bring in traffic and customers. What do you do? Learn web design yourself? Sure, that's an option, if you have the time and interest in doing that. Alternatively, you could go to fiverr or guru, or some other professional services marketplace, and you will literally find hundreds (if not thousands) of 'experts' who provide the service you are looking for. Do you see where this is headed? The digital world is so hyperconnected that instead of competing against a few known entities for supremacy in a particular industry, there are thousands of nameless, faceless competitors all angling for a slice of the industry pie.

So, should you just pack it in and give up?

Sure, if you're that know...a quitter. (Hmm...that reminds me...I need to establish a 'No Quitters Allowed Access' policy for this blog at some point).

On the other hand, you can simply pivot and retrain your thought process to accommodate being a leader in a particular niche of your industry. Did you get that?

Look, instead of trying to stand out generally, in a world of more than 7 billion people, the odds are far more favorable if you identify a particular segment of your industry and assume a leadership position therein. Leadership in this fashion is simpler. It involves you really identifying the segment of the market that you want to capture (yes, that means creating an avatar....but that's fodder for a different post), connecting with your audience, and solving a problem that they have in a way that is more personal than commercial. 

Building this personal connection will take some effort, but if you are authentic and transparent, water will seek its level, and the people you identify with, will identify with you. Make your initial focus the establishment of a genuine connection with your audience. Let them get to know you through regular two-way communication; build trust and the feeling of authenticity. Afterwards, so long as you offer a quality product or service, you have an opportunity to gain traction and eventually assume a leadership position in your market niche.