Build Your Business Around Tools, Not Talent

Getting off the treadmill

Many business owners get their first taste of success simply be being talented; they’ve got the goods. But the ones that go on to build highly successful companies will not do it on their talent, or even the talent of others.

Too many business owners are involved in talent shows – building their businesses on being center stage and showing their customers how they good they are. Why shouldn’t they? It’s those unique abilities that first allowed them to get ahead. But talent is not a good thing to build a business around.

Tools, Not Talent
In 1977, Ms. Fields’ first venture was a tiny little shop in Palo Alto, CA where she made the cookies by herself. She attracted customers because of what she personally could do. But early on she did something very strategic and simple to build a great company, that all of us should do, whether we want a billion dollar corporation or just a great local cookie shop; she started building her business around tools instead of around her talent.

Rather than rely on her on ability to make cookies, she wrote the recipe down so that others could replicate her genius. Her talent went out of her head (talent), through her heart (passion) and out her hands (process) on to a piece of paper, freeing her to build a great company. The simple tool she created with that recipe gave her a business that could make money without her being there. In ten years the company grew to over $100 million sales and a staggering 18% ($18 million) profit.

Our Secret Sauce
Too many business owners keep themselves deeply inserted into the process, unwilling to divulge the secret sauce that is behind their talent. In many cases, they’re just too busy being successful to even figure out how to pull that secret sauce out through their hands on to a piece of paper. And sadly, many are sure that simply no one else could do what they do; their talent is unique and cannot be transferred to the hands of someone else.

Others Can Paint Your Mona Lisa
There are painters who, if given the proper tools and training, are able to produce such perfect replicas of the most cherished paintings on earth that only a few experts can discern they aren’t the originals, and then only after studying them closely. Even the greatest of talent can be replicated.

It was your talent that designed your Mona Lisa, and maybe that initial “design” talent is not replicable. But the ongoing delivery of that Mona Lisa is easily replicated if you are willing to write your recipe down, turn your talent into a tool or process, and train others to use it. You just have to get over yourself and the idea that no one else could deliver on the unique process you’ve devised.

Be Your Creative Self – Let Others Make the Cookies
Go ahead, be a wildly talented, creative genius. Come up with amazing things or transformational services that make people come running. Then get your ego and yourself out of the way and take the time to figure out how to train others to do it.

In 10 years, Ms. Fields was able to expand from one cookie recipe to 14, and from one store to a few hundred, because she was no longer making the cookies. But she had to get over herself and believe somebody else could do it.

Build your business around tools, not talent. Write down your recipe. Train others to make the cookies, and instead of making the cookies, use your creative genius to develop more recipes and expand your business.