Why “Only You Can Do What You Do” is Limiting Your Business

Only you can do what you do” is a pop culture principle of the microbusiness movement. But it only tells a very small part of the story. And in doing so, keeps the impact these businesses can make on their customers and the world–as well as their owners–very small.

Yes, you have a unique set of skills, talents, and experience. Nilofer Merchant calls this “onlyness” and my friend Michelle Ward, the When I Grow Up Coach, calls this “uniquity.”

You’d be remiss to underestimate what that adds to the value your business creates and how it engages customers. However, your onlyness or uniquity is not the value itself. It is simply a channel for that value. It’s a differentiator. It may be a selling point but it’s not what sells.

I see this misunderstanding stemming from one problem and contributing to another:

First, microbusiness owners–and predominantly women–all too often see their businesses as a method of discovering their self-worth and an engine for igniting their personal development. While entrepreneurship and business ownership can, in fact, be part of the process of developing both, it is not the source of either.

Business development and personal development are not one in the same. One might inform the other but your attention to both should remain separate.

Only you can do what you do” tries to validate your specialness through your business.

But until you can stand confidently in your beliefs, experiences, and worth as a human being, your business isn’t going anywhere. You’re already special. You don’t need a business to validate that fact. And your business won’t.

Your business can’t make your special. You already are.

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Let your business grow on its own merits not yours. Focus more on selling the value it creates for your customers and focus less on selling yourself.

Second, microbusiness owners use “only you can do what you do” as an excuse not to create leverage in their businesses. The adage blinds us to opportunities for scale. If only you can do what you do, then it reasons that you must be involved in every aspect of your business.

This is not the case. I’d much rather believe that you, in fact, can do what I do. But even if that doesn’t work for your business, it’s important to know that just because your perspective is unique, executing it is not.

Your perspective is unique, executing it is not.

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What if instead of running yourself ragged, trying to do it all, you trained someone to act on your insight? What if your business was driven by your unique perspective and realized by others skill?

If you choose to forget “only you can do what you do,” what new ideas could you dream up? What new areas for growth could you explore? What ways could your business create a greater impact on the world?

– PS –

The Art of Growth, my book on redefining business growth for a new generation of entrepreneurs shares more ideas like this one. Grab your copy today.

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3 comments on “Why “Only You Can Do What You Do” is Limiting Your Business

  1. veraclaritas says:

    I know you mentioned this problem explicitly applies to women but trust me, men have the same problem. They come at it from a different direction though. Ask the average man to tell you about himself and after his name, he will probably tell you what he does for a living. It isn’t just associating, it is equating. The message is: I *am* my job.

    Once you go there, it is a slippery slope. Now any failure to differentiate one’s business is a failure to differentiate personally. And guys really feel the need to stand out. It’s a testosterone thing.