The Advantages of NOT Knowing Everything When You Start a Business

Thinking about starting a business, but not sure how? You’re in good company. Here are wise words from bestselling author and president of the Wiseman Group, Liz Wiseman, on how you can use being a rookie to your advantage.

Before we get to how I met (and ate lunch with) Liz, a moment of reflection on my own “not knowing” during my first year in business.

Happy first anniversary to my business!

This month marks Professional Communication Consulting’s first anniversary. Between mamahood and working with great clients, it’s been the best year of my life (so far!) I’m passionately enjoying the journey of business ownership.  My team of talented writers and I help remarkable organizations like Pluralsight, MarketStar, and The Real Estate Guys tell their story. I'm also helping my first AnniverStory client, Career Step, strategically celebrate their 25th anniversary year.

It's been a year of progress, but I’m still a business toddler: I’m curious. I stumble. I make (sometimes expensive) mistakes.

That’s likely why “Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work” jumped off the bookshelf earlier this year. Looking for business advice, her title offered validation for my learn-as-I-go method.

I'd seen the author speak before, but imagine my surprise when I saw she'd be a keynote at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, which I planned to attend. So I did the natural thing. I tweeted her.

To my delighted surprise, she tweeted back the next day, inviting me to lunch. WOW! What an honor. (Take note: Twitter works!)

The power of your “Rookie Smarts”

There’s liberation in not needing to know everything. Even more, Liz’s book argues it is better for business. Here are some takeaways for anyone who has a desire to start a business (or apply for a different work position or tackle a graduate program – whatever it is!) but isn’t sure how.

Rookies haven’t built up a layer of fear.

“People fresh to a problem haven’t convinced themselves that they can’t solve it.” (pg. 53) For those of us who are figuring out business as we go, there’s fearless freedom in admitting we don’t know it all. (Who does?!)

Rookies access more know-how.

“Rookies, with little to lose and everything to gain, seek out help and reach out to experts who can guide them and augment their deficiencies.” (pg. 87) In fact, Laz shares how they ask many more people, much more often. “When you ask an expert, you get one expert. When you ask a rookie, you get a network of experts.” (pg. 79)

Rookies find work to be playful.

“Perpetual rookies have a different mindset. When they grow up they want to be a kid—permanently young of heart and mind.” (pg. 160) My three-year-old is currently learning her numbers and letters and I see how thrilled she is to learn. It’s FUN. I'm also having so much fun learning new business skills.

Liz’s book isn’t just for those “new” to owning a business or working for a great brand. Those who’ve been at it for years can turn up the dial on their curiosity and become what she calls “Perpetual Rookies.” But that’s another post.

Lunch with author and executive advisor, Liz Wiseman

When you've admired someone from afar, it's always interesting to meet them in person. I watched Liz deliver her successful Silicon Slopes keynote, tweeting her many gems on leadership. Anyone with kids will appreciate this one: “Parenting is the ultimate leadership … you don’t get to hire or fire them.”

Afterwards, Liz was as enjoyable up close as on the keynote stage. I ate lunch with Liz, her husband, and a small group of friends from different stages of her life. She shared great stories. I noticed how she had learning apps on her phone, was fully present, and her ability to help everyone at the table feel important. She really lives her message. She’s a true multiplier.

Liz taught me to embrace being an entrepreneur rookie. I'm owning it! Business “mistakes” merely mean I’m taking action and learning. And learning is a lifelong pursuit I never plan to stop.

So carry on, friend, in whatever new business venture you want to try. Have fun! And don't be surprised if you discover real advantages to NOT knowing what you're doing in business.