To Specialize or to Generalize?4 min read

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To be or not to be, that is the question. Actually, the question everybody’s really asking is, should we be a specialist or a generalist? That’s the question that everybody wants to know the answer to. First of all, what is a specialist? A specialist is the master of their trade. They’re the best at what they do. They go deep. A true specialist actually represents a small fraction of the universe of people. Tom Brady is a specialist. He’s one of the absolute best at what he does. He’s known as the GOAT. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks on the planet. Like him or not, it doesn’t matter. He put in a lot of work to be the best!

What is a generalist? A generalist is somebody who focuses on many things. The downside of a true generalist is because they focus on so many things, sometimes they’re great starters, however, they don’t necessarily execute to the very end as great finishers.

What is the answer? Should we be a specialist or should we be a generalist? My suggestion is, specialize in being a generalist. Let me explain. First of all, if you want to market your wares, your services, you want to market yourself as a specialist. Let’s say you’re a website designer. You want to market yourself as the best website designer out there, bar none. That’s what makes you rich. That’s what makes you great. That’s what brings in the clients. Once you have the client and you’re doing your job and doing it well, then you can share that you also specialize in several other related areas. You’ll be able to run their YouTube page. You’ll be able to manage their LinkedIn account, do their digital marketing. Your specialization brings them in, and the generalization of being a specialist in several areas retains them as their client.

It’s the same with myself, my specialization is I can help business owners grow themselves and their business, that’s it. The generalization is, I don’t necessarily need to know how to be an attorney or to be a general contractor or how to be a CPA. That’s not what I do. That’s the generalist of it. The specialization is, it doesn’t matter. I can help that person, their team and their business grow, no matter what industry they’re in. I bring in the client as the specialist, however as we work together, I specialize in several other areas like growing them as leaders, growing their team, communication, accountability, the systems, and strategies to grow their business. My specialization brings in the client, my generalization of specializing in several areas, retains the client.

I encourage you to take a look at yourself, of where you specialize. Be aware and careful of being a total generalist that you’re jumping at so many different shiny objects, your focus isn’t clear on where you want to go.

The ultimate answer is, work on being the specialist that specializes in being the generalist. Your focus is on doing a few things very, very well. Remember to market yourself as the specialist that specializes in that particular product or service. Once you wow and retain the client, you’ll be able to keep them for the long-term by being the generalist that specializes in several similar services.

The last point is there’s a great book written by Michael Gerber, ‘The E-Myth Revisited.’ It describes the technician, the manager, and the entrepreneur. A technician might be a great painter. He paints houses, and he’s the greatest when it comes to painting houses in his area. However, then he has to become the generalist because now he wants to build a company, hire a team, and teach that team how to become great painters to represent his brand. The specialist now becomes a generalist that has to specialize in different areas. He needs to become a leader, a manager, a better communicator. He needs to adapt the systems and strategies to help his team become as good as him.

Take note, it’s not either-or, it’s both. Practice these strategies, practice these principles, specialize in be the generalist, and you will be more focused and you’ll be able to open more clients and retain them longer.