Good Enough Is Good Enough

Have you been to Charleston, South Carolina?

My wife Linda and I were there just last week, in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary (I know, I don’t know how she’s lasted this long either).

It’s a beautiful place and we had a terrific time eating, drinking, biking, strolling, kayaking, beaching and more.

We even took one of those 90-minute horse-drawn carriage tours where they tell you interesting local facts, such as, “The salamander is the official state amphibian” and, “In Charleston, it’s illegal to eat shrimp on Tuesdays.” (It’s possible I made that second one up.)

One thing we didn’t do, however, was stay in a hotel. Nope, we stayed at the home of a complete and total stranger, thanks to Airbnb.

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If you’re not familiar with this newish concept, Airbnb is an online service that matches travelers with local hosts who rent out all or part of their homes.

In our case, we rented a spare bedroom from Josephine and Shawn, an energetic, friendly young couple with a sweet dog and a cute house, just a few miles from the center of town.

This is the third time we’ve travelled this way and while we really like it, I acknowledge, it’s not for everyone:

There’s a lot of variation from situation to situation; you need to be willing to interact with your hosts; you can pretty much count on at least one awkward moment during your stay. (“I think the dog may have eaten my deodorant.”)

But, if you can live with the roll of the dice that is a stay in the home of a stranger, you get one, big benefit: Local Insight.

Josephine and Shawn knew everything worth knowing about Charleston. And I don’t just mean restaurant recommendations (although they had some great ones). I mean things like:

“Don’t take the bridge before 10am; they’re doing construction on the north side.”

“When you get to the beach, you can more or less park anywhere you can find room, provided all four of your tires are completely off the paved part of the road.”

“If you want to rent bikes, go out to one of the islands. Trying to ride in the historic district is a nightmare.”

And on and on. We asked all kinds of questions throughout the course of our stay – some specific, some general – and they always had an opinion and/or useful suggestions.

So here’s my question for you – one that relates directly to your solo professional business: Are Josephine and Shawn Charleston experts?

After all, neither has a degree or even a certification in local happenings; lots and lots of other locals (not to mention online sites and apps) know just as much as they do; and the two of them have been living there for fewer than 10 years.

Given all that, it may seem like a pretty big stretch to think of them as experts. And yet (pay attention, this is the key idea), to Linda and me – blindly wandering Charleston novices – their knowledge and insights were priceless.

This is critical for your marketing and something I come across over and over again: When I encourage people like us to think of themselves as “Likeable Experts,” many cringe at the expert part.

“Other people in my field know more than I do.”

“I haven’t been doing it for very long.”

“Lots of the things I would recommend are already out there – for free – on the Internet.”

But you know what? None of that really matters.

Because to the visiting strangers in “your land” (i.e., your prospects and clients), you know several lifetimes more than they’ll ever want or need to know about whatever it is you do.

To them, the decision of whom to hire isn’t based so much on who’s the best of the best of the best, as it is on more easily discernible and subjective measures:

Who do they feel most comfortable with?

Who was referred by somebody else that they already trust?

Who comes to mind first when faced with a particular problem?

Here’s the bottom line. Stop worrying about whether you’re good enough, smart enough or experienced enough to think of yourself as an expert in your field. To the Michael and Linda’s of your world, you’re way, way over the bar.

When it comes to standing out and getting hired, ramping up your presence and likeability is where all the action is.

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17 thoughts on “Good Enough Is Good Enough

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Don!
      I think it’s the “gosh darn it” part that makes that quote so good!

  1. Dianna Huff

    When my son had his bar mitzvah, instead of a party, I took him to CA for a tour of Silicon Valley, Google, Intel, Apple etc.

    We rented a bedroom through Airbnb, when it was still a newbie startup, in an apartment right in down town Palo Alto. So awesome. The guy renting it also rented to tech start up dudes and my son (a geek) was able to meet and hang with them. I even met a guy who was interning at Box and we still follow each other on Twitter.

    Have used Airbnb a few times since. Love it.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      That sounds like a great experience. I definitely love the “roll of the dice” nature of the whole thing. We’ve always been B&B people, but this takes it to another level!

  2. Leslie

    This post really hit home. Coincidentally, earlier today I booked my first Airbnb reservations. My son has had great experiences with them in many countries and so we decided to try it out during our upcoming trip to Budapest and Vienna. But more important was your message about being a “likeable expert” and not worrying about being the best of the best. Your example really made sense. Thanks, Michael!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m glad it hit the spot, Leslie. And congrats on your upcoming trip! That sounds fantastic.

  3. Roger

    A friend of ours mentioned Airbnb not long ago (she’s being using it successfully for some time now) and we have decided to celebrate my wife’s big 5.0 in DC next month that way! Geronimoooo

    Totally agree on the expert part. Saw a seminar once and the presenter said “you don’t need to be the best in the world, you just need to be the best in the room.”

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Great quote Roger, and congrats to your wife on her big day. Hope you have fun with your Airbnb!

  4. Charles Alexander

    I have went through VRBO several times, but not Airbnb. I have thought about it, but with three kids, ages 6 and under, it’s not very easy to only rent a room or so. Or even go anywhere. Or sleep.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Been there, Charles! Over before you know it. You won’t sleep in about a decade either, mostly because you’re wondering why they’re not home yet!

  5. Jean F

    My one Airbnb rental was probably not typical. The building seemed to be a small former apartment building cut into smaller units. In the daytime, there were staff people there washing linens who did not seem either knowledgeable or particularly helpful. The few requests I made were not fulfilled. The best thing about this place was its location and fast wifi, but I wouldn’t stay there again. I am willing to try Airbnb again, next time at a real house with real people.

  6. Theresa Singleton

    My husband and I had great experiences with Airbnb on our trip to Australia/New Zealand last year. We even ran into our NZ house owner in downtown Sydney after our stay in NZ – small world. Happy anniversary Michael!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Glad it worked so well for you, Theresa! Our host invited us to the microbrewery where she bartends – that’s a good person to know!

      And thanks on the anniversary too.

  7. Christine Thomas

    I’ve been struggling with this very thing, Michael. You’re right…it’s the “expert” part that trips me up. I consider myself “a professional generalist”, so I’m uncomfortable claiming “expertise”. I’m might just have to adopt Stuart Smalley’s mantra (gosh darn it!)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I know, it feels kind of arrogant. But I think it’s less about saying, “I’m an expert,” than it is behaving and thinking that way. I’m constantly surprised by the experienced, quality people I work with one-on-one or in my classes who don’t quite believe it about themselves.


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