Business Services: Do It Yourself or Hire a Pro?

159093620The Platform is an invitation-only guest opportunity that asks technologists and innovators to share big ideas. This week you are getting schooled by Brad Woodcox (@bradwoodcox), Director of Investment and Operations at HalberdCross who also serves as a Technical Specialist at Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg LLP.

The Internet connects people to an enormous wealth of information. This access facilitates the ability to learn new skills with relative ease compared to 30 years ago. However, just because you have access to relevant information and the ability to absorb it does not mean that learning a new business service skill is the best decision.

“When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” – Sir Ray Avery via TechCrunch.

Scary to quantify it in those terms. Add to that, a typical person reading this article may have already used up 10,000 (or more) of these days. Since a person’s time is so limited, making efficient decisions is paramount, unless you want to waste one or more of your 30,000 days.

Within this finite number of days, a person will repeatedly be faced with a choice to tackle a problem alone or to hire the expertise of a professional service. These instances will span both a person’s personal and professional life. Example situations include:

  • It is the annual tax season. Should you purchase TurboTax or another computer tax program or should you hire a CPA/tax pro?
  • You want to setup a new company. Should you utilize the state’s website, purchase a package from one of the online LLC/corporation formation companies, or hire a local corporate attorney?
  • You want to increase your company’s online presence. Should you create your own website and social media accounts or should you hire a tech/social media consulting firm?

Interestingly, the same question/problem can have different ideal responses based on the details of the situation. Despite these questions arising a multitude of times in a person’s life, each instance is still often a tough decision on which path to take. The reasoning is perhaps best captured by former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.” –Donald Rumsfeld via Dept of Defense

What is an “unknown unknown” to a novice may be a trivial or a “known known” to a professional in the area. These are often pieces of information that can only be derived from years of experience and not from a short-term “Beginners Guide to …”.

To combat such situations, the following ten considerations are proposed to assist in developing a structured analysis and thought process that may highlight the “known unknowns” or perhaps even suggest the presence of potential “unknown unknowns”:

  1. Time: How much time will it take you to learn the information and skills to do it yourself? How much time will it take to find and manage a professional?
  2. Money: What are the cost savings between doing it yourself and hiring a pro?
  3. Access: How accessible is information, instructions, or walk-throughs for completing the task?
  4. Quality: What kind of quality is required?
  5. Results & Consequences: What are the effects if the job is not performed correctly? What can be gained from a superb project?
  6. Reoccurrence: Will the skill set that needs to be learned benefit you in the future? Will you have to repeat this process/service?
  7. Rapid Change: How dynamic is this problem area and will the required skills change before you need to repeat/redo the service?
  8. Skill Transferability/Marketability: Would the skills learned be beneficial in other areas? How do the skills fit with your current expertise? Would the skills learned make you more attractive to an employer or client?
  9. Post Work: After the initial task is completed, will there be ongoing maintenance services required? Do professionals provide any guarantees?
  10. License/Certification: Do you need to be licensed or certified to perform the task?

If you are facing a rarely used skill that has significant consequences and requires high quality (such as drafting an operating agreement for a new company), then you might decide to hire a pro.

However, if you are facing a skill that has low barriers to entry and requires continual post work/development (such as updating your website or creating a corporate Twitter account and social presence), then you might decide to learn the required skills.

Utilizing these considerations will hopefully help you manage your decision analysis and make better use of the remainder of your 30,000 days, whether you decide to do it yourself or hire a pro.

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