Do You Need to Be An Expert In A Certain Field To Start A Business In It?

It's -relatively- easy to be perceived as an expert

This was the third question that I was asked by a participant at a recent entrepreneurship event, and I thought it was a great question!

I’ll give you a short answer, and a slightly longer answer.  First the short answer: no, you don’t need to be an expert in a field to start a business in it.

Here’s the long answer: of course, it depends a whole lot on your definition of expert, and which business you’re getting in to.  You can’t not be a surgeon and decide to open a surgery clinic.  Also, you can’t not be a lawyer and decide to practice law.  But with a few exceptions, you could really start any business you wanted to (I’m assuming you’ll have done your homework, feasibility study and business plan, which you should do even if you are an expert already)

I’ve heard that Sir Richard Branson, the genius founder of the Virgin Group studies a market for three months before entering it.  Three months!  That’s it!  So you don’t need to have years and years of experience and accumulated knowledge.  You just have to be smart, and hire the right people.

And remember, there are many entrepreneurs that have a degree in one field, and work in a completely different one.  In fact, many entrepreneurs have no university degrees at all.  So that should not be seen as an impediment.  Speaking of Sir Richard, he dropped out of school, and today he’s a billionaire.  So if you have any hang ups about that, don’t!

How to be perceived as the obvious expert in your field

As a marketer I think it’s important for your market to perceive you as an expert in your field.  And remember, to be an “expert” in something, you just need to know more than the average person.  Quick example, though I use a lot of technology, I don’t know how it works, and don’t really care how it works.  But I have to tell you, I’m so impressed with some of these IT people that know how to programme and do their computer wizardry.

They might laugh at my naiveté, and try as they might to explain how simple and unimpressive it is what they are doing, it doesn’t take away from the halo I see floating over their head.  Get my point?  It’s easy to be an expert to me in the field of technology.

Please don’t think you need to have 24 initials after your name and 20 years experience to become an expert.  Here are some of the things you can do to be the obvious expert in your field:

1. Write:

Articles, books and reports.  Remember, even if you what know is known to everyone in your industry, it might not be known to your  customer, so write about it anyway.  Write a weekly or monthly column in a trade publication or consumer newspaper/magazine.  You can write a regular blog.  Also, right reports about your industry, as well as free reports for your customers to download from your website.

Also, write a book.  Look, writing a book is not easy, but it’s certainly not as hard as most people think.  My self-defence book has garnered me two TV appearances, a newspaper cover, radio interviews, and lots of other media coverage.  It has greatly boosted my expert status in the field of self defence and martial arts in Bahrain.  The book is only about 100 pages long.

Your book can even be written by a ghost writer (a professional writer who writes books for others in their name).  You’ll find loads on e-lance.  Or your book could be a collection of all the articles you’ve published over a two or three ear period.  Don’t worry too much about how well your books sells, it’s not about the sales (the vast majority of books barely break even), it’s about having a really impressive business card (the book).  Get my point?

2. Appear on radio and TV:

Again, this is not as hard as it first sounds.  I’m not suggesting you get a whole show for yourself (although that would be great, but difficult to get at the start), what you can do is contact the radio and TV station(s), and tell then that whenever they have a story that is related to your industry, that they should contact you for quotes.  I recently heard the story of a US cab driver – yes, a cab driver – who contacted his local TV station and offered his service as a traffic expert.  So whenever there was traffic, the TV station would send a reporter to interview him – standing next to his cab of course with the phone number showing – about ways to avoid the current traffic.  He’s their expert, get it?

3.  Conduct seminars and workshops:

These can be paid or unpaid, depending on the purpose you want to achieve.  At Zen-Do, we often conduct free anti-bullying seminars at schools.  We do this for three reasons; the first and most important reason is for the cause.  I’m a staunch supporter of children’s safety, and protecting them from abuse, neglect or bullying.  The second reason is to get more students in our school.  And the third to garner publicity for our school.

I’ve conducted paid self-defence courses as well.  As well as various other seminars, events and workshops.  The more of these you do, the more likely you’ll be perceive as an expert.

4.  Publish your own newsletter:

What better way to establish yourself as an expert than to publish your own newsletter?  You can share tips on how to do what ever it is that you do, and also keep your customers and prospects updated on your latest offers.

I highly recommend you get the book The Obvious Expert , by Elsom Eldridge and Mark L. Eldridge.  This book is a great resource to help you stand out from the crowd, and put help you to be perceived as the obvious expert.

I hope you found today useful.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.

6 Responses to Do You Need to Be An Expert In A Certain Field To Start A Business In It?

  1. Osman Safdar 11 December 2010 at 7:21 am #

    Sensei! Very informative article! It really got me brainstorming! And thanks for sharing the tips specially about the book “the obvious expert” … its definitely going to be in my reading list!

    • Suhail 11 December 2010 at 8:07 am #

      No worries guy. Thank you for asking all the questions.

      Oh by the way, you BETTER succeed with all this help you’re getting!

  2. Younis 15 December 2010 at 8:44 am #

    dear Suhail,
    thank you for the article, but i have some questions:
    what level of knowledge do you need to have before starting to post and publish articles? or for people to start perceiving you as an “expert”?
    the other thing that you always mention success stories, and i like success stories, but you forget that in comparison to 1 success story that all the world is talking about, there are millions of failure stories that nobody even knows about, you should never miss this point
    one last thing is: i can see that you have some spelling mistakes in this post, also in the article “iscovering The Hidden Profits In Past Customers”, you said that: (It costs 6 to 10 more money to get a new customer than to keep an
    existing one)
    6 to 10 what?
    that’s all bro
    wish you all the best

    • Suhail 15 December 2010 at 10:36 am #


      As far as publishing articles is concerned, I don’t think it’s a matter of knowledge as much as it is a matter of confidence. Just go for it, surely you have enough knowledge. Further, I don’t think there are “millions” of failure stories. Besides, what about the failure stories? I’ve always said there is no shame in failing, and that a mistake or failure is something you do, not something you are. I’ve failed plenty of times and continue to do so. I think the real failure is not to try something at all. I like the saying “dare something worthy.”

      As for the spelling mistakes: might I suggest you don’t be too pedantic and just get over them? They don’t bother me. Finally, if you don’t know what I meant with “it costs more…” I think you’re in the wrong place. Maybe you should follow a blog of a perfectionist English language professor. You’ll be less frustrated.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Cody 1 January 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    It’s nice to read a quality article. I enjoy lots of the articles on your site.

  4. Ryan 14 February 2011 at 6:58 am #

    I think Tim Ferris said in his 4 hour workweek book that you’ll know more about a subject than 90% of the population if you simply read three books about it. Makes sense, and if you’re actively engaged in a business you’ll probably hear a lot of the same questions and see a lot of the same problems so you’ll get good at resolving the same types of issues. Just need to not be afraid to make a few mistakes at the beginning.

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