March 20, 2016

#AndyTalks 016 – You don’t need to be an expert

People typically underestimate the value they can add.

Often they feel they need to be an expert to help someone.

That’s not the case.

In this video I talk about how I got started in my current business, before I’d even heard of AdWords.


I find people typically underestimate the value they can add. The way we’ve been taught in schools and universities makes us think we have to be an expert.

Back in 2009 I was an IT consultant. I was trying to get out of being an IT consultant. I looked after databases, which is kind of back end boring stuff, but mission critical. But I always knew I was seen as a cost. I wanted to get into something a bit more sexy, like front end web development or something like that. Part of it was that when I was at a wedding or something, if anybody asked me what I did for a living, it was pretty damned boring to tell them I was a database administrator. How does it sound — Oh, I can write some backup scripts for you. That’s not very appealing, is it?

Anyway, because I know how I learn, I decided not to pick up a book and try and learn how to build websites. Instead I looked around at people I knew to see if there was anybody who needed help. I had a friend who was an electrician. This was 2009 so the economy was tanking and basically, all his work had dried up. Things were so bad, he had to hand his van back. This is a man with a wife and two kids and a baby on the way. A man who does electrical work for a living and he’s having to hand his van back. That’s the beginning of the end for him. Where does he go from there?

I remember talking to him and asking him how things were going. He just kind of looked me in the eye and he didn’t say “bad” or anything like that, but I could tell he was staring into the abyss. So I wanted to help him. I thought he’d be a great project for me. “Project”… That’s a bad word for it, isn’t it?

My mission became — help this guy get more work. Not build a website. I remember talking to him and saying that I was learning how to build a website. He bit my hand off down to my ankle. Snap decision.

Created the first site in Joomla! I found that pretty complicated. Then found WordPress; threw up a template; got his site up. He loved it, but it didn’t get him any phone calls. I then got a book on SEO, search engine optimization, and got him ranked top for Kildare electrician, Kildare being the county we live in. He still had no phone calls though.

An AdWords voucher fell out of another book I was looking at. I created an account and threw the fifty Euros into it. Bid on things like — electrician Kildare; Kildare electrician; Dublin electrician; wiring and rewiring and things like that. I remember being on a client site in their IT team and my phone rang and he’d rung to tell me, “Andy, Andy, I’ve had a phone call!”. I was in a bit of a daze, to be honest. I stood up; I didn’t even know I’d stood up. So I walked around with a phone to my ear, “What? You had a call?” I was delighted. Wow, it works! This is amazing. So you can imagine how he felt. “Andy, it works! It’s working!” That month, he had a steady stream of leads and phone calls, enough to keep him afloat. Enough to give him hope. It was a happy ending to a story for my friend.

I’ll go through a few of my AdWords learnings from that campaign another time. What’s more important to realize is that my goal was not to learn how to build websites. It wasn’t even to build a website. My goal wasn’t to build a website. My goal was to help somebody I knew get more work. Didn’t matter whether it was a Joomla! website, a WordPress website. Didn’t matter what the theme was. It didn’t matter whether I knew SEO. I’d never heard of AdWords until that voucher fell out of a book. I loaded it up; it started working; I concentrated on that.

If you want to start a business, don’t think about starting a business. Don’t think about growing a business. Just find somebody who needs help and then go and help them. You don’t have to be an expert. He’s an electrician. He assumed because I was in IT that I would be able to help him.

If I hadn’t got beyond the “programming” in school, I might have said, “Well I better go on a course and learn how to create websites, a five day course. I probably should create a business card for my own business — whatever that is. Probably should learn logo design and all that kind of stuff.”

No. It’s a lot simpler than that. Just help people.

Help people.

Everything else falls into place.