Are you a Tool or Rain Maker?

Hello hello. It’s early morning in my basement and it’s getting a bit chilly. The Winter is coming to New York… Anyway, I just got out of the cold shower and it feels good! My family is about to wakeup, but before they do I wanted to talk with you guys about something.

As you probably know I’ve been working in the technology field for the past 10 years. First I started as junior PHP programmer, then I became a senior developer, then moved into operations as I wanted to learn how the WHOLE thing works from top to bottom (from code to servers). As of today, I help HBO to maintain their online properties as the Site Reliability Engineer.

I always thought of myself as a smart guy, but here is the question – is that enough?

Make it Rain

The other day I was driving in my car to the soccer practice and listening to the Russel’s Brunson Makerketing in Your Car podcast. Yep, that’s right – a tech guy listening to marketing podcasts.

I don’t remember the name of the particular episode, but it touched me on a very deep level.

See, no matter how smart you are, there are people who are smarter. Everyone is replaceable. There are no exceptions to this.

Unless you know how to make it rain! 🙂

If you take your ass off that comfy chair and walk around the office, you probably will be able to find rain makers pretty quickly. Most of the time they inhibit sales and marketing departments. The good ones also have fancy offices with glass doors, leather sofas and you never see them around (hint: they work on their own schedules).

Why is that? Well, see, the ultimate goal for every business is to generate profits. How can the company generate profits – it needs to sell some products or services, right?

Yes, the product is important of course and “in theory” good engineers should be able to create good products. The thing here is to define what’s good and what’s not. You are probably thinking of some fancy new technology, features or stability when it comes to good product definition.

I say the product is good when it solves some problem for the end consumer.

A Product is a product is a product.

If you are a technical guy like me, you probably never thought what happens before (or after for that matter) the product gets created. Most of the time we work with some specific tasks assuming that someone else already came up with the initial requirements.

I personally built multiple products in the past only to realize that I either didn’t know how to sell them or the features I thought were useful turned out useless for the end customers. Raise your hand if you can relate.

That’s where the RainMaker comes in.

What am I talking about? Let me explain. See, most businesses start with the entrepreneur on top. He has the initial idea and vision, his main goal is to steer the ship in the right direction and assemble the team.

Now the second point about building the team is extremely important and here is why. During the initial business stages, it’s often necessary for the entrepreneur to step in and immerse into all day-to-day activities (product creation, marketing sales, accounting).

Sadly, but quite often the entrepreneur never graduates from this stage and keeps working for his business instead of his business working for him. Eventually, he burns out and the business dies (you probably heard that the vast majority of new businesses die within the first few years).

If the business survived that brutal first stage (identified what to sell and how to sell it), the next step is growing and scaling. It’s essential for the entrepreneur to start assembling the team and that’s where the technicians/tools (including us, programmers!) comes in.

When it comes to technicians, the amount of money they are going to get is dictated by “budgets” and “market salaries”. There is always a cap basically (and competition). Don’t be upset, my friends…

Remember every business on earth, well maybe not every but most, wants to increase sales. The technicians usually do not affect sales directly. The entrepreneur who started the business is usually busy managing the thing and can’t focus 100% of the time on growing sales either. That’s why there is a need for rainmakers.

Rainmaker is the entrepreneur inside of the company or INTROpreneur. For whatever reason, he couldn’t start his own business, but he knows how to bring in new leads and sales. By the way, it’s not necessarily a sales/marketing person. It could be a video guy who perfected the craft of capturing peoples emotions or a programmer who came up with a new way to capture business leads or built some new interactive sales funnels.

The point is – every business needs people who can bring new leads and money. If you can do that, then the competition and salary caps become irrelevant!

Pause here and re-read the last paragraph. I want you to understand those concepts before we move on.

The next critical thing is to figure out and understand your superpower and work with others to compensate the skills you don’t have.

A few years ago I attended the new book presentation at FastCompany office. The author’s main goal was to find common patterns that made poor people poor and rich people rich. In the book, he revealed a pretty interesting correlation between the number of skills people possessed and their income level.

The lower was the income bracket the more skills that group of people said they were really good at. I don’t remember the exact numbers and the name of the book but here is the essence:

Yearly income and the number of skills mastered:

0-50K – really good at about 15-20 things (can do everything basically, just show me the mooooney)
50-100K ~ 9 skills
100-200K ~ 6 skills
200K-1M ~ 4 skills
1M-100M ~ 3 skills
100M+ ~ really good at only 1 or 2 things

Again, don’t quote me on numbers here, I just wanted to show you the idea (which is pretty powerful in my mind). When Norm Brodsky, the successful entrepreneur and author of the Street Smarts book (highly recommend), was asked the question about his greatest skills, his answer was short and simple: “I can predict future”.

As you can see it’s extremely important to be really good at one or two skills instead of being a jack of all trades (at least if you want to create substantial wealth).

But what do you do about those other important skills you don’t have? You form or join a team of superstars (aka rainmakers).

Remember how in the Starcraft game you could create Archon from multiple Templars? Same idea.

Before we move on, I’d like to stress one important detail – you have to explore other areas, otherwise, you will not be able to understand what kind of team member do you need and what skills/tasks that other rainmaker should excel at. It will be very easy to mislead you basically, that’s why balanced self-education is critical.

When it comes to software engineers, it’s even more important to venture outside of the known realms. If you are front-end developer, you should start exploring back-end or operations and vice versa. That would be a good first step.

I would then recommend even more radical approach – venture into completely new areas like marketing and sales, money management, personal development, health. Work on your social skills and stop going to tech meetups for God sake (at least for a bit)!

Get uncomfortable and you will grow. Try to create and sell some simple products. It’s fun!

In the past few years, I had a chance to work closely and observe quite a few really outstanding entrepreneurs. Here are the few key steps that can jump-start any product/service creation:

  1. Start selling the idea before it is built – even if you don’t have anything built, you should create a wrapper (“an offer”), make it look as real as possible and try to find some people who will be willing to pull the credit card and pay real money for your offer.

  2. Collect as much feedback from early adopters as possible – constantly do the ask campaigns. The initial group of customers is the most valuable group. The goal here is to find out what they really want, instead of what you think they want.

  3. Build the initial version of the product/service based on what your customers want and give it to them

Boom. Simple and powerful. Yet most people, us engineers especially, do it the other way around.

So who are you?

I see a lot of people around me worrying about losing “the job”. They complain about outsourcing and automation. I don’t. You know why? Because every single day I invest in myself. Instead of sleeping on the train or watching a funny video on youtube in the morning, I read the book. When I have to drive, I try to listen to podcasts. When you sleep I write this blog post.

My ultimate goal is to make my own calls in life but to get there I have to step out of my comfort zone. Remember this awesome quote written by Einstein?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

When you look at the past, I’m sure you will find lots of examples of when you took a step into unknown and came out stronger in the end.

Here are some of mine:

As a child I had to switch schools pretty often, that taught me how to make new friends faster. Then I joined a soccer school and even though I had to morph into the new group of teenage guys (wasn’t easy) I came up better soccer player which helped me later to secure a spot on the college soccer team.

When I burned my first HTML site to the CD disk and went on pitching the business idea to the clothing manufacturers, I learned that everything is possible if you want it bad enough (plus I still have the growing business 10 years later). On the college graduation party I was brave enough to invite the girl I really liked to dance with me and now I have a beautiful wife and a son (have to admit, some alcohol helped as well).

Then I took the biggest risk in my life and came to United States where I had to start over again, learned the new language, taught myself how to code and found my first tech job, then second and third, bought my first house and a car, went to a very expensive marketing training (way outside of my comfort zone), started exploring personal development and here I’m 10 years later writing this words in English for you guys! Isn’t that amazing?

I bet my life would be completely different have I made some other “safer” choices. But then I would have to deal with regrets and what ifs. Thankfully I don’t have to as I continue to push forward, one step a the time.

The point is that you need to constantly take risks, push yourself to the unknown and expand your knowledge. Don’t be the one who only focuses solely on one thing. Unless you want to be like this guy.

Specialization is very important, but it’s not enough. If you are an engineer – learn some marketing and finance. Worst case it will help you be a better engineer (if that’s what you want to be) as you will be able to understand the problems on the much deeper level.

In reality, I want you to dig a bit deeper. Are you focusing on the right thing? Are you just the tool helping someone else achieve their dreams? If you are reading my blog, then I can safely assume you want a bit more out of this life, right?

Let me break it down to you – it all boils down to making money. What if you focus on that instead of whatever else you do at the moment? Can you use your existing skills to achieve the financial freedom? By that, I mean the ability to make your own calls of when to work hard and when to do other fun and exciting things (aka enjoy life).

Maybe you want to have a car like that, instead of telling yourself that you don’t need a car in the city:

Are you a freelancer and think you are making your own calls of when and how to work? Bullshit! You are still trading time for money, plus instead of one boss, now you have 20! Freelancing sucks!

Let me reiterate, the point is not to create “the thing”, but get it to as many people as possible and yet most of us (engineers especially) focus on the product creation… It took me a LONG time to realize that, but once I did, something shifted inside of me. I started learning “the game” and putting more focus into building new business muscles instead of perfecting my tech skills.

Here is the good example – about a year ago I had an idea to create a WordPress plugin. Since I didn’t know WordPress internals too well, it was very tempting for me to go the usual engineer route. By that I mean spending/wasting time learning and playing with the new technology and creating the whole thing myself.

Only that time I consciously decided to do things differently. I hired someone else to create the plugin for me and instead focused on the marketing side. Long story short – it turned out to be the most financially successful and emotionally rewarding standalone product I ever created.

Anyway, if you have a stable well paying job, but still feel unhappy, most likely it’s because you stopped growing and take risks. Remember, you are not alone.

Just a few days ago I was walking on the Highline with my wife and our little son and saw so many amazing apartments overlooking the river and the city, huge construction projects, helicopters going up and down. I saw people enjoying the dinner at the restaurants nearby, but I felt like I was a stranger… like I didn’t belong.

Yes, high paying job and stability is good, but I want my piece of life now. Watch me! Join me! Let’s disconnect from the Matrix!

P.S. Found this video of Russel Brunson which inspired the post. It’s long, but I promise – it is so powerful that it can transform your life:

Wake up, Neo... The matrix has you...

I'm Sergey Khaladzinski (@gansbrest). Not so long ago, I decided to take my life to another level. If you'd like to follow my journey, feel free subscribe below to get periodic updates about my life and the new stuff I explore.

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