It’s Not What You Can Do, It’s What You Can Get Done

I started a company because I was a good web developer. Most founders start a company because they’re good at doing something — whether it’s baking bread, fixing cars, or creating websites. But as an individual, there’s only so much bread you can bake, cars you can fix, or websites you can create on your own. At a certain point, for a company to really be a company, you’re going to need to depend on others to expand your capabilities.

One of my maxims over the years has been “It’s not what you can do. It’s what you can get done.” Maybe “mantra” is a better word, because it’s something that I’ve needed to remind myself over and over. When it comes to most tasks, I tend to veer towards D.I.Y. However, I often find myself bottlenecking my projects as I realize my time, knowledge, or skills are more limited than I’ve acknowledged. And I can be slow to ask for help.

If you run a company, your clients aren’t hiring you for what you, personally, can get done — right this very moment — like some kind of pop quiz. They’re hiring you for the results you can get, cumulatively, and collectively, over the duration of your relationship.

As a company grows, so should its capabilities. This means hiring people and building relationships to expand and complement your own skills. That Venn diagram might not have a lot of overlap — and that’s a good thing! You might have a development background and now you find yourself hiring designers and content strategists. Some owners feel disingenuous selling skills and capabilities that may not have much overlap with their own. “I can’t sell my design team if I’m not a designer. They’re going to know I’m not a designer and I’ll look foolish.”

But remember that you’re selling your “company.” Let’s think about the various definitions of “company”. It doesn’t just mean business. “Company” also means the people around you. When you’re selling your company, you’re not just selling yourself; you’re selling your relationships, your associations, and your contact list, as well as your staff. You’re selling your ability to meet their needs — to get their project done.

This maxim is also a good way to get unstuck. When I find myself stuck on a task — something that I thought I could do, but I’m just not getting it done — I need to remind myself that maybe the solution isn’t for me to do it, but instead for me to find someone else to get it done. There’s no shame in that. If I shift my mindset from “doing it” to “getting it done” it changes my tactics, opens me up for collaboration, learning, or maybe just paying someone else to do it for me. Either way, it’s gets done. And at least for the moment, I’m unstuck and moving forward.

Jeff Robbins is a business coach, mentor, and virtual business partner who works one-on-one with company owners and leaders to help them build vision and direction for their companies while building productivity, stability, and happiness for their employees and themselves. You can work with him too. Reach out to set up a free consultation session.

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Jeff Robbins

Cofounder at @Lullabot. Executive Coach at @jjeff. Rockstar at @Orbitband.