Service of Specialists

March 22nd, 2010

Categories: Books, Outside Counsel, Public Relations, Specialists


Some people are handy and clever. They think that they need never hire anyone else to do a thing for them either at work or at home. From online, inexpensive tax businesses and discount Internet travel agencies or one-size-fits-all press releases in templates, there’s always someone introducing a quick ‘n easy technique or innovation that’s touted to get the same results as a specialist with the promise: The money you save by doing it yourself will be astronomical!

I visited a moderate sized company where the owner invested in a topnotch computer loaded with top-of-the line graphics programs. He handed it all to the most computer-savvy person in the place to design advertisements. The adverts looked like loving hands at home and were frankly pathetic. While the designated computer specialist may have been brilliant at figuring out how to get the equipment and programs to work, he had no clue about graphics. In my opinion, while the boss thought he saved money, his company’s image suffered and he actually lost lots.

houseforsaleSome feel they don’t need a real estate agent because Craig’s List or some other venue will find them likely suspects and save them a substantial fee. In New York City, if you are trying to sell some co-op apartments with stringent standards and requirements, this could create a huge time pit. While a seller might pull in a brace of prospects on his own, if none meet a co-op board’s rigorous requirements, you’ve wasted time. Further, are you comfortable asking personal questions about a stranger’s net worth?

Whether selling any property–condo, co-op or home–a good real estate agent will weed out the bulk of inappropriate candidates and help protect your property. In addition, they see enough bottom fishers to recognize most. They drag themselves ragged taking real estate voyeurs around before they come up with a serious contender.

antiqueGriping about paying a real estate agent’s fee is like grumbling about paying the premium on antiques or paintings purchased from a dealer who has sleuthed and vetted hundreds of items in private homes and at auction so that someone can walk in and leave with something special. The cost includes expertise and [saved] time.

I knew a woman with a high profile job who shopped a book proposal on her own and immediately sparked interest from a major publisher. When she subsequently introduced the publisher to her [new] agent, she was dropped as fast as a vat of boiling fat. She didn’t know the ins and outs, and alone, would have been sorely taken advantage of.

I’ve met marketers who go it alone without the counsel of specialists whether advertising, public relations, social networking, video, web design and on and on. Anyone can buy a flip video camcorder to post images on YouTube, their blog or on Facebook or open a Twitter account to tweet messages galore, but it doesn’t mean that anyone but the wife and kids will see or appreciate any of it.

And don’t get me started on the value of hiring writers and what happens when a company doesn’t. I finally tossed the file I kept for ages filled with copy that would make grown people weep with laughter. Who would want to see it?

housenutsRe. the more obvious nuts and bolts of DIY, I admit I’ve fallen for miracle products that are “easy to apply,” thereby enriching countless manufacturers while achieving lackluster results. What I’ve bought to clean grout, remove rust from heating elements and then paint them or to achieve the effect of an elegant drapery treatment [I don’t sew] would fill a small store. Is it different from pills people swallow so they can eat all they want and still lose weight?

But my business is another matter. I seek the counsel of and pay for specialists for myself and my clients.

Given the assistance of technology, how many corners do you feel safe in cutting and still achieve your goal and the results you require?


4 Responses to “Service of Specialists”

  1. Jack Ketchum Said:

    As the world becomes more complicated, what we do in life compels us to rely increasingly upon the skills and knowledge of specialists. That’s an obvious given. But…

    Many years ago, I had no problems when I sold a house without benefit of either a lawyer or a real estate agent, or when our family doctor dealt with an amputation. Today, what with all the social legislation of past decades, I would no more buy or sell a property without engaging both a quality real estate agent and an experienced real estate lawyer to help us, than our family doctor (amazingly, we still have one!) would go near performing an amputation himself.

    What bothers me, though, is the irony of the reality that while we are ever increasingly compelled to use specialists in many areas of our lives, we are simultaneously ever increasingly bombarded by Home Depots and Lowes, and computer manufacturers to “do it ourselves.” It takes me four times the amount of time to do a paint or carpentry job than it would a professional painter or carpenter, and the result of my work looks terrible. And the same goes for what I am doing right now. Writing this has taken me perhaps ten times the amount of time it would have taken my former secretary.

    Does this make any sense?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A computer, its programs and a Blackberry have made me so self sufficient that I don’t think I would want a secretary or an assistant these days. I am very happy to call in free lance help when necessary.

    I would also posit that if your former secretary was retired and wasn’t using a computer–as you do–her writing skills and speed may have ground to a halt and yours, because you use them, have moved along at a brisk pace that you may not even realize.

    However, without the help of an IT person when my computer gets sick, I’m dead.

    As for Home Depot and Lowes, there are people who love do it yourself projects and are very good at them. And others who buy the less expensive products available there to have professionals install them. I think that they have a place, as long as there continue to be other options as well.

  3. Nancy Farrell Said:

    Jeanne and Jack, your comments bring up many interesting points. The fact that we have less time than ever can be attributed, in part, to the fact that we’re expected to do a lot of things on our own–whether or not we’re the best person for the job–and more than one thing at once. I once met someone who claimed she could do six things at once. How many things can we do well if we’re not focused on any one thing? And how much time are we saving by doing six things that need to be re-worked later?

    We think we’re expected to check our Blackberries while we’re chaperoning our child’s field trip while we’re answering calls. Never mind that our child notices he’s not important and he’s wandering off, heading towards the parking lot. And never mind that we’re charging a vacation day and working all day.

    This happens when we’re in the office, too. We can’t possibly attend a meeting and not check our Blackberries (never mind the fact that some of the Blackberries aren’t even company-issued–they’re for personal use). I’ve been at meetings with 3 attendees where the most junior level person is deleting personal text messages while the senior level people are talking. I actually came out and said, “What are you doing?” Typing loudly while you’re on a conference call? Guess what? I can hear you. I think the best thing we can do is to be present and fully focused on what ever we’re doing at the time. If we’re asked during the meeting to retrieve a document from our computers, fine, but don’t communicate with another client while you’re on the phone with me.

    Many jobs require employees to check e-mail while they’re out of the office but it shouldn’t be every second you’re away from the office and it shouldn’t be while you’re doing anything else. Take a few minutes a few times during the day but we should be present and focused on what ever we’re doing at the time.

    Regarding your question, Jeanne, I’m not comfortable cutting corners. Technology is great but we shouldn’t rely solely on it. And as you’ve illustrated, we should know enough to know when to ask for help.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    When I first bought a BlackBerry, some three years ago, I was told that the device wasn’t for me–it was for staff of large corporations so that supervisors would never again hear, “I didn’t get the memo/message, I was out of the office.”

    I found the handheld actually freed me. In a second I can get back with someone and tell them when I can call or expect information they need or answer their question or pass along their question to someone so that I can respond more quickly. It allows me to be at two places at once, makes me feel I can go away from my desk and not miss too much.

    As for juggling six things…sounds like what would happen to me after cramming for a final: I wouldn’t remember a thing two days later. In the case of the juggler, my bet is that the next day, this person wouldn’t know where she was on any project! At activity report time or asked for an impromptu update from a client or boss…forget it! Total blank.

    When on a conference call, the tap-tap-tap of computer keys is rude and drives me nuts, even if I know the person is probably playing solitaire. It’s similar to someone not looking at you in the eyes when you are speaking with them, and looking around the room instead.

    At a seminar, the speaker must feel insecure watching a room full of tops-of-heads rather than eyes, as people respond to emails instead of listening.

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