Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I’m guessing that you are an above average professional based on the fact that you take the time to read a publication like Entrepreneur. But many people in every profession know just enough to get by — like the insurance broker who barely passes the annual credentialing for new products or the psychotherapist who does his continuing education every two years but doesn’t bother to look into current psychological research or new modalities. How about the attorney who passed the State Bar exam 20 years ago and every three years since then, she simply plunks down $59.99 to do her minimum CE courses online? These professionals aren’t necessarily incompetent. But wouldn’t you rather work with the professionals who stay on top of leading-edge practices? A professional who is an expert?
Many professions don’t even require much education and training to get the initial certification. For example, being a mortgage-loan officer can be highly lucrative, yet it requires very little education. In California, you only have to take 20 hours of NMLS-approved classes. You then take a test, get registered, have a background test (where you have to show up as squeaky clean), get a credit check and get fingerprinted. Voila! According to the state, you’re now perfectly qualified to advise people on what is probably the biggest financial investment they will ever make.
Really? In what universe? It takes over 500 hours to become a licensed manicurist! And it takes 60 hours of coursework to become one of those H&R Block tax preparers. So, why does it take so little time and effort to become a loan officer? In other professions, it does take a lot of work to get your initial license or credential, but then, except for a few continuing education courses, you can pretty much skate.
Set your sights higher to achieve major success
To become a real expert and authority, maintaining the bare minimum is not enough. If your goal is to build a successful professional business and create a life that is outstanding, you need to set your sights a lot higher.
Being an expert also helps you overcome any negative PR that may have tainted your profession over the years. Lenders, securities brokers, chiropractors, business consultants, attorneys — almost all professions have gotten a bad rap at some point based on a few people who took advantage of their clients. That stain taints everyone in the field.
The good news is that as soon as you actually run your profession like a service business and dive in to become an expert in your field, and when you put that knowledge out there through engagement marketing using digital tools, you automatically earn respect. It happens quickly because you stand out as being different and as a leader in your field.
It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. Think about it: That’s around ten hours a day for 1,000 days! The author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport, emphasizes that how you’re using those 10,000 hours is equally important. He says you need to push yourself to the very limits of your current skillset to really expand into expertise.
Personally, I’m comfortable defining myself as an expert, especially in my real-estate business. I’ve worked in real estate for 19 years and sold over 2,000 homes. And even though I have all that experience, I still take a minimum of three to five webinar classes a week. I take classes on trends in real estate, business and the economy. I also take classes on technology and marketing and on how to use social media and digital-marketing tools so I can stay on the cutting edge of the latest techniques. I push myself to take classes about anything that can enhance the value I can give to my clients.
I was heading to another training a while back, and my dad, “Why do you do all these trainings, Krista? You’re already in the top 1% nationally.” I said, “Dad, the reason I’m in the top 1% is because I’m doing these trainings.” I don’t think he really got it. Later, when my father read my first book in which I advised others to commit to constant learning, he said, “It’s too much to tell people to take lots of classes. They’ll starve to death because they won’t have time to actually make any money.” I respectfully disagree. My success and that of my students and other highly successful professionals proves the point.
Once you stop learning and educating yourself, you stop growing
I also now consider myself an expert in my coaching business where I focus on helping professionals succeed using digital-marketing strategies. I’ve taken literally thousands of hours of trainings. I’ve earned four 2-Comma Club awards in digital marketing, which means I’ve created four marketing funnels that have each generated over $1 million in sales in a 22-month period). Yet I’m still always on the lookout for classes and seminars that will enhance what I know.
The point is you can never stop learning. The second you stop learning is the second you lose your claim to being an expert and authority. The world changes rapidly these days, and you need to keep up with those changes to be considered an expert. These applies to every career or profession.
What does this all have to do with marketing to build your business? It has everything to do with it! You can be the nicest person in the world, but the person your community will flock to is the one who has the expertise, the person acknowledged as the authority in your field. We want to work with people we like. But when it comes down to it, we pick a dentist, surgeon and even a manicurist based on their expertise, not just their personality, right?
You have to become an expert so you have valuable knowledge to share with your clients and community.
And please, don’t use time as your excuse! I run two businesses: my real-estate business and my coaching and training business. I have an active family, a program I created to help teens succeed and various community involvements. Yet I’m still committed to continual learning. I use audio downloads and audio books. I listen to educational business and marketing books while I’m getting ready for work or cooking dinner. I try to not waste any spare minute, even when I’m standing in line for a latté or driving. It has helped me immensely.
Every profession has zillions of good resources for learning what is happening in the field. Find yours.