Throughout our schooling and mentoring, we entrepreneurs are constantly urged to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. But is this advice really viable? Does it truly apply to us? In my opinion, the answer to both questions is “yes.”
The best entrepreneurs are steadfast generalists — especially in today’s world, where knowing a little about a lot is increasingly important. They are persistently curious and have a deep, abiding interest in learning. They see opportunities where others see challenges, and they’re often natural leaders with strong problem-solving skills.
The Specialist’s Dilemma
A society of specialists is rich in data and poor in meaning. How valuable is all that knowledge without any context? As strategic thinkers, generalists provide the meaning behind data. They’re big picture-oriented and not afraid to take risks. They also enjoy their independence and prefer working in open (and sometimes chaotic) environments.
Specialists, on the other hand, typically thrive only in perfect conditions. They serve a very specific purpose within their particular areas of practice and are extremely adept at navigating it. However, they struggle to adapt when conditions change, which can be a problem in the volatile world of entrepreneurship.
It’s clear that taking a generalist’s approach brings a number of solid advantages to entrepreneurs and founders. Here are a few additional benefits:
An individual who’s only comfortable working within the strict parameters of his expertise would be overwhelmed by this task.
Generalists love the hustle of entrepreneurship. But a generalist’s mindset isn’t limited to company leadership. You should strive to hire a staff rich in this personality type, sprinkling in some specialists to keep things balanced.
Recruit Specialists to Further Your Success
It takes a devout generalist to recruit good specialists. Effective hiring requires a strong knowledge of every employee’s duties. However, it’s impossible to lead and manage someone when you don’t understand his role and daily tasks.
Here are four specific traits you should look for in your new hires:
They won’t be satisfied simply working on what’s been assigned. They’ll help you hire junior talent, document workflows, and instill best practices. As your team grows, you personally will not have enough time or resources to micromanage hires, so these qualities become increasingly valuable.
Being a generalist is the foundation of running your own thriving business. By embracing that role, honing those skills, and filling your workforce with top-notch specialists and generalists, your startup will see success in its outputs, ideas, income, and culture.
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