Street Talk: The Power of Specialization

The Power of Specialization

My story about Bob Bly


By Clay Conner


Iíve always been curious about specialization.  In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill, the father of all contemporary success coaches and authors, dedicates an entire chapter to specialized knowledge.


Mr. Hill says, ďThere are two kinds of knowledge. One is general, the other is specialized. General knowledge, no matter how great in quantity or variety it may be, is of but little use in the accumulation of money.Ē  He continues by saying, ďKnowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organized into definite plans of action, and directed to a definite end.Ē


Doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, architects, electricians, and even plumbers specialize.  Specialists have this knack for completing a task with incredible ease that I might find difficult or even impossible to get done.  And what impresses me the most about specialists is the beauty of their execution and the quality of their results.


Then one day I met Bob Bly.  Well, I didnít actually meet him in person.  I talked to him on the phone.  It surprised me that he answered his own phone.  Hereís a guy who has written over 60 books, most of them printed by major publishing houses, and he is in continuous demand to provide services to some of the biggest companies in the world.  And he answered my call.


Bobís a specialist.  Heís a copywriter.  Thatís what he does day in and day out.  Heís not a graphic designer who does copywriting on the side.  Heís not a novelist who writes ads to make some money until his epic gets published.  Heís not a marketing communications generalist who writes copy as part of a package deal.  Heís a copywriter.


Anyway, I described my project to him and I could tell he was intrigued.  His normal schedule would have pushed my assignment out for months, but he wanted to fit it in sooner.  Then he said, ďLook, my project manager will contact you and work out the details and you can decide what you want to do.Ē


Then I got an email from Fern, Bobís project manager.  How could I not answer Fern?  Her name exudes the kind of gentleness and charm that would attract anyone.  After all, Fern was the name of the little girl in Charlotteís Web who wanted to save Wilbur, the pig.  I had to call Fern.


Fern and I had a nice conversation about my project.  My consulting firm needed a couple of white papers prepared to use as conversation starters with prospective clients.  We talked about the business I was in, the purpose of the white papers, Bobís pricing and his availability.


Fern was so pleasant.  Iím from Idaho and both she and Bob live in New Jersey.  Letís just say that the east coast pace is way different than the pace in Idaho, but Fern was different and didnít make me feel like she was in a big hurry.


The show stopper for me was the price.  Based on Bobís stellar reputation, I was certain that the value was there, but we just couldnít afford his pricing for the project.  Then a few days later, I got a package from Bob.  He enclosed a signed copy of his latest book on white papers called The White Paper Marketing Handbook.  It was full of great information about how to write white papers.


After reading Bobís book, I suddenly felt empowered to write the white papers myself.  So with the help of the other consultants in our firm, we wrote the documents and used many of the ideas from his book.  We all felt good about the papers, but knew that we needed someone to provide some objective criticism.


I shared the first document with a couple of people, but their feedback was similar to the comments of the king in the movie Amadeus.  In the movie, Mozart completed a composition for the king and performed it for him.  Then he asked the king what he thought of it.  The king paused for a moment, realizing he didnít know anything about music, and said, ďHmm, I think it has too many notes.Ē


Of course, we needed more than just random feedback.  Then I remembered that Fern had asked me to send her copies of any of the white papers we wrote on our own.  So I emailed her the paper that we wanted to publish first.


Fern quickly responded and let me know that Bob also provides critiques on projects like this one.  And he could critique the paper for a fraction of the cost of writing the document.  Now that made sense.


We negotiated a very reasonable fee and Fern said that he would have it done in about 7 to 10 days.  She lied!  Bob got it done within 2 days.


I was amazed.  I know how busy Bob is, yet he made time for my project and turned it around lighting fast.  And his feedback was so clear and thorough.  I could tell that he read every word of the document.


I learned a few things from this experience.

        Donít be afraid to ask a world class specialist for help.  If they are interested in your project, they might just do it.

        If you canít afford a specialist to do the whole thing, you might be able to get them to help with part of it, especially if they wrote a book about the subject that you can read.

        Specialists that are great at what they do know how to do it in the most efficient way possible.

        Committed specialists continuously challenge themselves to keep getting better in their craft and it shows in the work that they do.


My new philosophy is to find specialists to help me make improvements in my own life.  Maybe I should specialize, too.  Then I can do more of what Iím really good at and negotiate the rest away to other specialists and we can all raise the bar.  Now thereís an idea!