Don’t Be a Jack of All Trades—Hire an Expert

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Who Not How" by Dan Sullivan. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why should you hire an expert rather than trying to do everything yourself? In what three ways are you wasting time if you don’t hire an expert?

Many business owners and managers struggle when it comes to giving up control—they strive to do everything on their own. However, rather than saving you time and money, doing everything yourself will often cost more money and waste your valuable time.

Here is why you need to give up control and hire an expert.

Hiring Personnel Speeds Up Your Results

In their book Who Not How, Sullivan and Hardy describe four ways in which investment in personnel creates stellar results in your business and outside of it. 

The first advantage to hiring an expert is that doing so increases the amount of time you have and how effectively that time is spent. According to Hardy and Sullivan, the most effective way to spend time is in whatever way achieves the best results as quickly as possible—and most entrepreneurs, they explain, don’t do that. Because they prioritize costs, many entrepreneurs address problems by spending their time instead of their money, wasting both in pursuit of a subpar result. Instead, the authors argue, you should reclaim your time—improving your own effectiveness and your outcomes—by hiring personnel.

(Shortform note: Time management is crucial for entrepreneurs because they’re responsible for an entire company’s results—as such, there’s always a task waiting for them, and there’s always a better way to spend their time. Hiring personnel frees up time better spent on tasks that make more money.)

The authors describe three ways in which you’re likely wasting your time, and explain how personnel can help you with each:

1. Struggling Alone Is a Waste of Time

An expert accomplishes your goal faster and better than you can because they already have the necessary skill set. They know what to do, so they don’t procrastinate; instead, they make the best move right away, achieving the best result as quickly as possible. 

(Shortform note: Even though, as Sullivan and Hardy state, handing off tasks to experts is optimal for efficiency, many leaders resist doing so. There are two primary reasons why entrepreneurs can be reluctant to delegate: Either their single-player mindset means they’re used to doing everything themselves, or they feel so responsible for their company’s outcomes that they’re not comfortable relinquishing control. Remember that as an entrepreneur, your job is to do what nobody else can—to lead, build, and promote your business—not to do rank-and-file work. Leave that to your employees.)

2. Engaging Halfheartedly Is a Waste of Time

Being the right person for a task is about more than just having the knowledge and resources to do it: You do your best work when you’re engaged and excited. When you’re not, you don’t just waste your time—you also waste the time of anyone who relies on you to be their expert. That’s right: You, too, are “personnel” to someone, whether that’s your shareholders or your spouse, and when you waste your time, you diminish their outcomes. Leave every task you don’t love to a passionate expert, and spend your time doing your best at what you love most.

(Shortform note: Entrepreneurs often highlight the importance of passion for their work because it’s a powerful motivating factor—it’s where you draw your vision and purpose from. Passion is particularly important because starting a business is often difficult and emotionally taxing; without passion, it’s easy to believe you should give up. The more you engage with aspects of your business that you’re not passionate about, the less motivated you’ll be—and the more wasted your time will feel.)

3. Unnecessarily Expending Energy Is a Waste of Time

Sullivan and Hardy explain that making decisions and completing tasks costs energy, and when you’re low on energy you make poor decisions and achieve subpar results. When you hire a cook or an accountant, you reclaim the energy to make great decisions and produce excellent results in other areas. Maximize your own effectiveness by minimizing the number of decisions and tasks you handle personally—so you can focus all your energy where it’s most valuable.

(Shortform note: Bezos, Buffett, and Obama all agree that the fewer decisions you make each day, the better those decisions are. Each time you make a decision, your brain expends energy and focus. Furthermore, some researchers believe that making too many decisions in a row—particularly without breaks—leads to progressively less thoughtful decisions. To maximize the quality of your decisions, Bezos says, only make three high-impact decisions a day—ideally, before lunch.)

Don’t Be a Jack of All Trades—Hire an Expert

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Dan Sullivan's "Who Not How" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Who Not How summary:

  • Why you should stop trying to do everything yourself and just hire someone
  • Why minimizing cost should not be the primary goal
  • How you can reclaim your valuable time at work and home

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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