Philip Morgan | The secrets of leveraging “specialization” to win higher fees

Tired of getting beat up by low-ball competitors?

The truth is that every business and profession is commoditized…

That’s the market reality…

But it doesn’t have to be your reality.

In fact, I love this quote from Seth Godin

Commodities are in the eye of the producer. If you don’t want to sell something that’s judged merely on price, then don’t.

My guest on this episode of The Unstoppable CEO Podcast is Philip Morgan, and he’s an expert at specialization.

He’s got a great process that will help you figure out how to specialize, and how to escape the commodity trap…

In the interview we cover:

  • Why you should specialize
  • How to overcome the fear of losing out on opportunities
  • Why specialization actually speeds up client acquisition
  • The importance of frequent communication with your market (and one unusual side effect)
  • How to use specialization as a launching pad for increasing your fees and reducing the complexity of your business

And so much more…

Episode Timeline

00:11 Today Steve speaks with Philip Morgan. He helps businesses make better positioning decisions and is the author of The Positioning Manual For Technical Firms

01:03 Philip tells us how he got to be an expert in positioning after becoming unemployed in 2008.

05:14 Steve talks about the pushback he gets when he advises companies to reduce the number of clients.

05:58 Philip explains the immediate benefits of reducing and specializing.

08:28 Philip explains how publishing to his email list 5 days a week helped his business more than anything.

10:18 Philip explains how he is an “unlicensed professional” and talks more about email marketing.

13:36 Steve and Phil talk about the difficulty of coming up with new ideas for email marketing but also the benefits that that difficulty brings.

16:40 Steve talks about the self taught skills he achieved through publishing frequently.

18:40 Philip talks about the importance of having a point of view.

22:34 Philip explains how he approaches his clients about positioning.

28:32 Philip talks about how we tend to focus on the loss rather than the gain and rappelling clients you don’t need.

31:11 Philip explains how you should take the chance and make the decision when the opportunity presents itself.

34:08 Steve talks about the benefits of learning on the job when going in a new direction.

36:17 Philip and Steve talks about the negative thoughts such as Imposter Syndrome.

42:21 Philip gives a great example from his own podcast of someone who specialised down to just 6 clients.

45:48 Philip tells us how best to get in touch with him.

Mentioned in this Episode

Want my best ideas for growing your firm, plus winning ideas from successful firm leaders?

Twice a week I’ll send the latest actionable ideas to your inbox. Just tell me where to send them and let’s get some clients rolling in…


Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host Steve Gordon and today, I think you’re just gonna get a ton out of this interview. I’m talking with Philip Morgan and Philip helps small development shops make better positioning decisions and he’s also the author of the Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. Now, whether you’re running a software development business or not, the things that we’re gonna cover today on positioning are going to apply to you. I know we’ve got a diverse audience, but I know this is gonna be very, very important for you, if you’re running any kind of professional service business. Philip, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. Great to have you on.

Thanks so much, Steve. Really happy to be here.

I guess, maybe give everybody a little bit of context. How did you get to this point in your career? What makes you an expert in positioning?

I think the short answer is a lot of pain. I got into self-employment accidentally. I was recently looking at a Bureau of Labor Statistics graph about employment numbers and the self-employment landscape seemed to change dramatically right at the time I got into self-employment and if I made you guess, you’d probably guess right. You’d say 2008 because that’s when a lot of companies downsized and a lot of things went wrong that were going well, so I became unemployed in 2008 along with everybody else that I worked with at this particular company. I said, very arrogantly at the time, I was like I can do better than that. The company I was working for had the classic whale client problem, so their whale client stopped spending money in 2008 and things just dried up very quickly for them and I was like, I’ll never make that mistake again. That’s such an easy mistake to avoid. Classic beginner mistake. I’m gonna go out and work for myself and I’ll get it right. Of course, I made the exact same mistake a few years later, myself. It’s intoxicating to have one client that seems like they can support your whole business and you feel like, oh, I don’t need to do business development. I don’t need to figure out how to get other clients. I’ve got this one great client.

The Danger of the Whale Client


You can trick yourself into thinking it’s gonna last for forever. I did that and then the pain came in when I said, well … I didn’t say it can’t work. It just didn’t work and what happened next was a lot of on the job learning about how to do business development and eventually, I got the message that narrowing your focus in one of what turns out to be five different ways, you can do it, is really effective. It’s like there’s things you can do that have all these secondary side effects and this has a lot of positive secondary side effects, so marketing started to actually work for me for the first time in my life. Before that, I would write blog articles because I heard that’s a great way to do marketing and nothing would happen. I would go to networking events and nothing would happen. After that change of narrowing down my focus, specializing, otherwise known as positioning yourself, lots of things got better. I don’t want to portray this as a magic bullet because it requires other things. It requires work, it requires time, it requires courage, it requires discipline, but in terms of a single decision you can make for your business that has all these cascading beneficial other affects, it was a big one.

I did that and it was revolutionary for me and so I wrote about it and it was a book that people responded to well, a self-published book called The Positioning Manual and then it was a really wonderful virus that took over my business because not a lot of other people … There’s Al Reese. There’s others. That David Baker you interviewed not too long ago. There are others, they’ve all talked about this subject, but nobody had talked about it for self-employed software developers, so I said well, I’ll do that. The book is two and a half years old, now. It’s been selling steadily since then and it’s become what I do. it’s the main part of my business, is I help self-employed software developers decide how to specialize, which sounds super simple, maybe but it’s a decision that comes with a lot of fear and emotional baggage.

How Focus Accelerates Success


The amount of fear. I don’t think it’s a simple decision at all. We go through the same thing with our clients who are maybe a little more diverse in terms of their industries, but the look of panic in the eyes of business owners that I see when I say, look you’re serving 15 people. You need to pick one. It’s just incredible to watch. I know why it happens. You feel like you’re giving up opportunity. I don’t know what your experience has been, but ours has been that every time that a client makes the decision, all of a sudden their results immediately accelerate and it’s really fun to watch.

Yeah, there’s a part of it that works like an investment. You don’t get a return on investment right away. Then, there’s another part, which I think is the part where you’re identifying. It’s an immediate thing. It’s like when you quit a job that you hated. Some of the effects take a while to accumulate, but then there’s this immediate relief of, in the case of quitting the job, I don’t have to go back and keep doing that thing I hated. In the case of deciding how to specialize, the feeling is, oh my gosh, I finally am out of this realm of uncertainty and trying to understand 50 different dance moves and I can just do the one that I know is gonna resonate with this type of client that I’ve chosen to focus on. That’s not the only way to decide to specialize, but you’re right. I’ve seen it multiple times, this immediate freeing up of, oh things are simpler, now. Things are easier and the things that I’m talking about are what do I say to my client to get them interested in my services? Well, not my clients, but my prospective clients. What do I say to them?

Yeah, I always equate it to the, hey I’m about to buy a brand new car and once I decide what the car is gonna be, I see them everywhere. I never noticed them before. The opportunities to go after any particular market are all around you all the time, but if you’re not focused on any market and you’re just broadly going out looking for any client that you can find, they’re all invisible to you, but the minute that you make the decision and say, okay I’m going out for that type of car, now you see those opportunities everywhere. I think it’s the biggest, most important change you can make in a business. Now, before you got to this point where you got all this clarity and this direction, we’re in 2018 and it sounds like the watershed event was in 2007, 2008, somewhere in there. Over the course of the last 10 years, I’m sure it wasn’t a straight line path or an easy path to get to the point where you’re at now and to build the business. Sounds like you had to discover this whole process of positioning for yourself. What was that like and how did you stay persistent through all of that?

I think it took me a while. I’m gonna say something that maybe doesn’t seem like the answer to your question. What I’m gonna say is publishing to an email list five days a week. I’m gonna say daily, but I really mean five days a week, not seven days a week. I think people are gonna say well, if you’re publishing five days a week, I think you’ve earned the right to say daily, there. This is a little later. Ultimately, I would credit that … Now, it’s a habit. It did not start out that way, but I would credit that activity with more of … That’s done more to make my business what it is, today than almost anything else other than specializing. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Yeah, I think that’s great. In fact, maybe we can have a support group for daily emailers. I did it for four years and finally backed away a couple of years ago. You can say daily when it’s five days a week. That counts.


It’s a big commitment. I know when I first started, I had all kinds of people telling me this was the stupidest idea I’d ever undertake, that I’d drive people away and they wouldn’t want to hear from me. I also know that building that habit and communicating like that with your audience gives you the opportunity to discover much more quickly what really works and what doesn’t. What causes your audience to move closer towards doing business with you.

The Secret Power of Frequent Communication with Prospects


There’s definitely a trust building and marketing aspect to it and I think one of the more profound things about it is … Let’s take a step back. I am an unlicensed professional. You might be, too. I don’t know anything about your background, but if you don’t have the letters MD or CPA or what is it? JDA for attorneys. If you don’t have letters like that behind your name, you’re an unlicensed professional. I don’t mean that in a dismissive way. If you think of it as a tribe or group, that’s the group I’m a part of. I’m specifically trying to help people who are also part of that group and in that world, how expertise is developed is different than if you’re a medical doctor or a CPA. There’s usually not much in the way of formal training for us unlicensed professionals. What do you do to develop expertise? This is so related to specialization. If you’re gonna specialize, I think what you’re doing is saying I’d like to be valued for my expertise ultimately. Maybe not on day one. On day one, it’s I just want to know who I should be trying to connect and build trust with. Who am I marketing to, in other words.

That’s the day one benefit. Maybe the day 600 benefit or the day 900 benefit is I have expertise that can command a premium price because I’ve focused on this type of client or this type of problem or whatever it is. That’s where you want to get and so I’m very interested with how you get there. How do you get to that point where you can credibly claim to have expertise that is super valuable. You can do on the job learning, of course and we all do that anyway, but I think if you commit to a daily publishing habit, I don’t say a writing habit because you might not write. You might stick an iPhone in front of your face and record a short video. You might have a podcast that publishes at high frequency. It could be any kind of media, but publishing daily to an audience, email is wonderful because you, to an extent know who your audience is. You’ve got a list of email addresses at least and you know that at least some of them are opening and reading and paying attention to what you have to say. That’s different than publishing a blog where it’s anonymous tracking, essentially.

Doing that daily, I think gets you quickly past what I think of as the superficial level of expertise, which is I know a little bit about a lot of things and it quickly gets you to the point where … Here’s where I want to ask you a question, Steve. When you were emailing daily, did you get to a point where you thought you said everything you had to say? I don’t know if you were just relentlessly selling something or teaching a little bit. I’m not sure exactly how you did it, but I’m curious if you got to a point where it got real hard to come up with new idea.

I actually did and I was about four years into it, so in the neighborhood of 1,000 emails. We weren’t selling something on every one of those emails. Most of them were pretty short. 250, 300 words, just a thought, an opinion, an idea that hopefully would help the reader and also transmit a little bit or convey a little bit of my expertise, but I will tell you that the act of writing and the thinking that is required to write something with a reasonable amount of clarity does more to, I think this is the point that you’re trying to make, is it does more, at least it did for me, to hone and develop my craft for lack of a better way to say it, than just about anything else I’ve ever done.

I have the same experience. If your point of view on something and there are experts who don’t have a point of view, and there are experts who do. The ones who do have an advantage in the kind of business that I think some of your audience has. If you have a point of view that’s flimsy and not well thought out, you will plumb the depths of it in 90, 120 days. Very quickly you’ll reach the limits. If you have a … If you feel like you have something to teach, but you’ve never actually taught it before, you’ll find out what you don’t know very quickly. That’s when it gets hard. For me, it was brutally hard for the first 90 days to publish at that frequency and then it became easier, but the other thing I like about it is it’s a sort of accelerator for your expertise. You’ll find out where your limits are and then if you commit to doing it even though you feel like you’re tapped out, you’ll go beyond those limits and that produces this growth of expertise or you talked about insight into understanding an audience, it can do that too.

Let me tell you, when you start publishing daily, even if you’re writing stuff that’s not very good you’ll hear from people because you’ll worm your way into their lives in a way that’s different. I call it high frequency publication and I set the bar at three times a week. Just different than anything that’s not high frequency publication. Now, you can do that also with really powerful, insightful stuff that’s published less frequently, but I think if there’s one thing that’s accessible to anybody, it’s publishing daily. Now, I feel like I’m on a rant about this, but your question was what’s kept me going? That’s one thing that has for sure kept me going. There are other things, but I can point to that because it’s so easy to understand. You just publish something five or seven days a week.

I will tell you it is so easy to understand. It’s so easy to commit to. I don’t know how it is for you, but it was really hard sometimes to keep it going.

Oh, for sure, yeah.

A lot of other things want to get in the way. I will tell you, though I’ve written two books. We’ve now committed to doing a book a quarter and the skill that I developed in writing that frequently, which was getting ideas on paper quickly that were coherent enough for people to understand, is what now has allowed … I mean, I wrote the first book in two months. I wrote the last one in eight hours. Not a long, long book, but enough. Having that skill, today I think is a huge competitive advantage and that’s one of the things that publishing frequently allows you to do. The other thing that you mentioned, which I think is really, really important is this idea of your point of view or your world view. This is the way things should be done in my profession. I think the one really cool thing about being in the types of businesses that we’re in is that you get to have a world view. If you’re in the product business, yeah, you can have that and that helps with the differentiation and certainly there are businesses that use it over there, but in my mind it’s the killer app for professionals.

I’ve been, as you described it, I’ve been both a licensed and an unlicensed professional over the last 25 years. Different industries, but the one common denominator through all that, that made both of those businesses successful is that we have really strong points of view and we shared them. Instead of the crowd’s all together huddled around, we were way outside the crowd.

I’m very interested in this question of … Some folks who are listening to this, I think I would bet money, say that sounds great. In fact, I know what that looks like because some of the people I look up to or I admire or follow, they have that.

Without a doubt.

Then, if you don’t have that because you have been operating more as a technician, let’s say, like my clients tell me what to do. I just do it for them. My clients tell me what to build. I build it for them or I feel like I am an expert at whatever; software development, SCO marketing, but I just do what other people say are the best practices. There’s gonna be a portion of listeners who lack a point of view and that’s the first thing, is to not be happy about that, to be dissatisfied with it. The first step is awareness. I’m not saying everybody has to have a point of view, but like you, Steve I agree that it’s this huge X factor. It’s a super power. It’s an accelerant. The question probably becomes, well, have you developed a point of view? I think one answer to that is you don’t try. You do something that forces you to do it as a secondary side effect and I would contend that high frequency publication will force that to happen, if you stick with it.

There’s lots of reasons people maybe started and stopped and I think that one of them is they reach a limit and they’re like, “I don’t have anything more to say. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t really have much more to say about this.” You can either stop or you keep going, be uncomfortable with that for a while and you create the conditions under which you develop a point of view, I think. Maybe it seems crazy to folks, but again, that’s all my long winded answer to what’s kept me going.

I think it’s a great answer. Let’s pause here. We’re gonna be back in just a second with more from Philip. I want to dive in, when we come back, into the really nuts and bolts of positioning your business, so stick around. We’re gonna be back in just a few seconds.

Hi, this is Steve. I hope you’re enjoying this interview. We’ve got more to come in a minute, but what I’d love for you to do right now is rate this podcast. Leave us a review. Rate us on iTunes. It’ll really help others discover the podcast and help us help other CEOs, other business leaders become unstoppable. If you go to you can find instructions there and links that will take you right to where you need to go to review the podcast. Thanks very much. Now, back to the interview.

5 Ways to Specialize Your Firm


Welcome back. This is Steve Gordon. I’m here talking with Philip Morgan. Philip, we got off talking about high frequency communication and talking about developing your point of view, which I think is a really good lead in to the whole idea of positioning because I think it’s essential to position. Maybe, not so much the high frequency communication. I think that’s the method that I think is most effective to get to the point where you’ve got that really well defined point of view. Now, if we turn a little bit and start talking about how to put it in place, this idea of positioning in someone’s business. How do you approach that with your clients when you’re working with them?

I was gonna say the glib answer is, well you just decide to focus on it. One type of client or one type of problem you solve and you’re done. That’s it. I think we can do a lot better than that, though. There’s this idea of positioning and I think of that as your reputation among a group of people. I have a reputation as someone who helps people with this process and that’s my marketing position. How you get there, I think is you decide to specialize. I’ll give a little bit of a mini lecture on the options. I think that might be a good place to start out. Just as we do that, you have to keep in mind that I’m gonna make this sound very clear and very simple, hopefully and I recognize 100% that it is rarely that clear and simple in reality for most people. Although, there’s a segment of the population I’ve noticed that they can hear how to do it and they can just go do it. I don’t know what to call them. Super achievers. I’m not quite sure. They’re usually very risk tolerant and they usually trust themselves a lot.

I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what percentage of the population fits that bucket, but there’s a bucket who are like, “Don’t make it so complicated. You decide, you do it and you get the results.” I commend you, if you’re in that bucket. There’s five ways you can specialize. I know that folks who have been listening to your show will have heard David Baker at least talk about horizontal versus vertical specialization and within each of those two, a lot of this is gonna be a little more particular to people who work in technology. There’s some sub options, so you can special vertically in an industry. You can say, I want to work with cosmetic dentists. I want to work with additive manufacturing companies. I want to work with management consultants those are all pretty specific verticals and you have to do your due diligence on things like, first of all, do they need what you provide? Is the market the right size? Some things have to check out. Something else that you might think about is what credibility do you have? That’s the first way you can specialize.

The second would be to specialize in an audience. A good an example of an audience of companies would be mission driven organizations. You’re gonna have mission driven organizations scattered across different verticals, but that’s way to group together companies that share something in common and say, we’re gonna go after those kinds of companies or we think we create the most value for them or we have the most in common with them, so we’re gonna pick that type of company. Horizontally, you can specialize in a business problem. We help companies for whom their lunch is being eaten by Amazon, fight back. That would be an example of a business problem that cuts across different verticals. The other option is what most software developers naturally are inclined to do, that turns out to be the least effective option for building a business and that is they specialize in a technology platform. I’m gonna get really good at developing software in Rails, for example. That’s picking a technology platform and that’s actually a very vulnerable market position because there’s this real boom bust thing that happens with technology platforms. Right now, you say I want to help people implement and customize Salesforce. It’s high cotton for you, if that’s what you’re doing.

Five to seven years from now, maybe Salesforce is not doing so well. Maybe the platform is not as healthy. Maybe they do like Twitter has done and made it really hard for third party developers to integrate. Not saying they’re likely to do that, but something like that could happen. That makes your market position less valuable because of stuff that is completely outside of your control. I tend to discourage that fourth option. The fifth option for specialization is to customize how you deliver your services. Sometimes, this looks like productizing your services or sometimes it looks like a really unique service delivery model. I think of Pia Silva who runs this company called Worst of All Design. She does a branding and website package in two days. It’s repellent to people who want this high touch, really, I’m gonna say inefficient, but I don’t really mean that. I just mean this high touch expensive process for branding, but it’s absolute catnip to people who are like, “I just need something simple and it needs to be done, so I can move on and focus on something else.” That’s the fifth way you can specialize, is customize how you deliver your services.

You’re less concerned about narrowing down your focus to a particular vertical or a particular horizontal and you’re more concerned about a service deliver model that you know is gonna be catnip to a certain type of client. Go ahead, Steve.

I was just gonna say, you said a really important word there and the word was repellent. I think we’re all sometimes way too afraid to go out and do anything that we know is actively going to repel a certain type of client because they might show up. They might. There is the slimmest of chances that someone might show up with a bag of money and give it to us.

I’m gonna interrupt you and say real quick, I’m gonna hasten to say … Sorry for the interruption, but we all want to repel clients that pay late, that are a pain to work with, that don’t take our advice seriously, that hire us to build something and then never launch it or never take it to the next step. We all want to repel those kind of clients, so to me you’re already used to thinking about doing that. Now, you’re just thinking, well you’re just extending that idea to I would like to repel clients. We focus on the loss without focusing on the corresponding gain. You touched on this earlier when you mentioned opportunity. We’re just afraid to miss out on any opportunity.

I think that attitude is forged in the fires, if you will of scarcity and a lot of us do start our business with a scarcity like we don’t have enough clients to be busy and we maintain that attitude of clients are scarce and hard to find way beyond its useful lifetime. That all relates to what you’re talking about, which is that if you can embrace this idea of repelling clients in service of attracting the kind of clients you really want, then it’s not about repelling clients. It’s just about attracting clients and the repelling clients is just gonna happen naturally. I’m not sure I’m being super clear about that, but I agree. It’s a very important idea.

No, I think you’re very clear. I always tell our clients, like you want to create this experience in the future client that you’re communicating with, that when they see anything that you send to them, they go, “Wow. He’s talking about me,” or “She’s talking about me.” If you can give them … I very literally mean that experience. They look at it and they go, “Oh, wow. That is exactly me.”

Yeah, they’re looking for the hidden camera in their office that you’ve placed there.

Yes, and that’s easier … That’s not the right way to say it, but it’s actually easy to do assuming that you have made the decision to specialize. Sorry, if I took us down a little bit of a rabbit hole there, but I think it’s a really critical topic.

I agree. There’s a perfect segue to the next big question. How do you make that decision? I have just described the five decisions you can make in general terms, but how do you actually decide? That’s where a lot of my work over the last year or two has been. The mistake I made years ago was to treat everybody the same and to say anybody that’s considering making this decision, they just need to pick something and go with it or they need to go after the biggest opportunity or they need to look at their roster of previous client experience, their previous life experience perhaps and find a head start and then build on that head start. I’ve just described three ways you can go about making that decision. One is, find a head start. One is delegate it to chance. I have jokingly suggested that if you’re having trouble deciding, go to the website, print out a list of industries, throw a dart. It’ll land on something like finance or manufacturing. Go back to the website, drill into that vertical and find a sub vertical. Print that out, throw a dart at that and now you’ve made your decision.

Of course, I’m joking. Most people would not take me seriously for good reason, but yet if you refuse to make the decision, I think things are gonna go worse for you than if you delegated it to chance. In a way I’m not joking, but that would be the second way is delegate it to chance and then the third way would be to look for an entrepreneurial opportunity and say something like, I really see a lot of life coaches and these other independent small businesses wanting to create online courses because that’s currently a hot topic and I’m gonna help them do that. By the way, I don’t really have any experience doing that, but I’ll just learn how to do it on the job because surely, I can do a better job than they can if I’m focused on it full time, and they’re focused on it part time. By definition, I have more resources to figure it out. That would be going after an entrepreneurial opportunity, which is very risky and beyond the risk tolerance of most of the people I work with.

Most of the people I work with are gonna look for a headstart and that’s gonna be the appropriate way that they decide. That’s, to me another very interesting aspect of this is there’s a know thyself component of understanding how you manage risk in your business and your life and then there’s another aspect of, based on that, which opportunities should you exclude from consideration because they’re too risky?

I think for most people, there’s something that within an hour at the bar or an hour at Starbucks having coffee or something stronger, they can draw on in their past and whether it’s an affinity or a particular skill, I think in either of those places, there’s something there that you can take and you can move forward with. I know that you feel the entrepreneurial opportunity approach is maybe a little more risky or most people perceive it as being risky and the reason that I think that is, is that they think, my goodness, I’m supposed to be a professional. I’m supposed to have practiced my profession, honed it and developed expertise. While all of that is true, I’m surely not suggesting you go out and do something you’re wholly unqualified for. If you’re someone who is in the technology world, taking your example of setting up online courses, by the time you get to doing that, the second round for someone, you’ve now done it 100% more than every client you’re every gonna get from here on out.

In other words, you’re twice the expert they are. Getting to that point of having enough expertise to deliver a competent service and at the end of the day, provide value for that client, which for most of us in any kind of service business there’s two levels of value. There’s the value they get from the results, but there’s also tremendous value that they get in the time that they have now not had to invest to go create that result on their own. Even if you maybe deliver them a result that isn’t the absolute most optimized thing in the world. If it’s good enough and still gets them a result, it tends to be a really good value for them because they haven’t had to invest in time.

Yeah, I think there’s a couple of interesting things there. You described a process and there’s making the decision. Let’s say you get to that point. You decided, I think I have a head start here or I’ve always been pretty risk tolerant in terms of spending money and speculatively spending time and energy. Maybe that means I’m a pretty risk tolerant person, so I’m gonna go after some entrepreneurial opportunity. What almost immediately happens is a buyer’s regret about the decision. I want to spend a minute talking about that because you haven’t had a chance to implement. You’ve not had a chance to start. You’re not changing a website. You’re not changing your approach to business development. You’ve not got to that implementation stage. The decision is not real, yet. You can easily start doing what I’ve seen a lot of people do, which is entering this recursive loop of self-doubt and questioning the decision because you’re lacking any kind of feedback from the marketplace about the decision. You’re stuck in your head. Imposter syndrome maybe is a problem for a lot of us. That comes out of nowhere. You have a bout of imposter syndrome and you say, “Gosh, who am I to do this,” or “Who am I to claim to be a specialist?” Not even an expert. Just a specialist in some area.

That’s a common one or you start to question the basis upon which you’ve made the decision. You’re like, “Well, I don’t have any real evidence here. Maybe I just got lucky. Yeah, I’ve had 10 clients in finance and they were all great, but maybe those are the only 10 good clients out there and I just happened to get them.” We start having this almost magical thinking that your decision is somehow flawed or based on bad evidence. That’s something people should be aware of and the best remedy I have for that is to have an intermediate stage before you implement the decision for real and maybe you just reach out to some companies that are in the space and you have conversations and you see what it feels like it depends on the person. I can’t really give a universal prescription here for what to do about this illness that flares up except that if you’re pretty detail oriented and you’re not a big risk taker, the main thing that will help at that point is some evidence to get you out of your head and get you in conversation with people in this area that you decided to focus on.

Then, you can move more, I think boldly and with less reservations into implementing it, which is making it real in the world. That takes time. It’s not an overnight thing. We’ve talked about some of the things that happen very quickly, this clarity about who you’re focusing on and so forth, but like you said, Steve, it takes time to build up the confidence in your own expertise unless you’re just one of those rare people who just seem to not question themselves that way.

It’s so funny you mentioned that. I’m listening to you, sitting here thinking, yeah okay. I’m eight years into building this business and I remember about six years ago thinking, boy did I pick the wrong direction. I was almost drawn back to that time when I felt really unsure of things. I think it’s a natural part of the process.

If I can jump in, it’s a mark of intelligence, that whole Dunning Kruger study. It’s a mark of intelligence if you question your own capability. It’s usually a good thing, but it can also be a self-defeating thing if you give it too much air time in your own thinking.

I think for most people, and you mentioned it a moment ago, the idea of getting caught in your own head. For most of us, we get caught in our own head, get in this echo chamber going around in our brain and there are very few markets that are truly limited. I have a good friend who sells training software to all of the states in the United States. He’s only really got about 50 potential clients. Probably not that many. I think there are a couple of states that actually don’t use this type of training. He’s got fewer than that. That’s a tight, scarce market. For most of us, though we’re dealing in markets where there are so many clients that even as we specialize, they’re more than we can ever serve in not just one lifetime, but in 10 lifetimes. I think it’s useful to remind yourself that. The way that I went about that, because I gotta tell you it really hit me hard about two years into the business thinking, I’ve overspecialized.

I was having a conversation with a friend and she said, “What are you worried about? There’s seven and a half billion people on the planet. There’s plenty of people out there and enough of them do what you need to do that you probably wouldn’t have to leave our little town.” I lived in a pretty small town in Florida. You’d be just fine. I started thinking about that, so I put a little thing up on the wall behind my computer monitor that I could see and I left it up there for about six months that said, “Remember, there’s seven and a half billion people here. You’re gonna be okay.” Just having that little reminder to get yourself out of your head will help you get through that, I think and keep going and that’s the trick, because you’ve got to figure out how to get out of it and keep moving forward because it can become paralyzing.

There’s plenty of evidence. It’s not always easy to interpret, but it’s not that hard to find. At least here in the United States, US government has lots of data on how many businesses are there in manufacturing that have between this number of employees and this number of employees? That’s in what’s called the American Fact Finder. Again, navigating their interface is not a joy. Quite the opposite, but it’s there. It’s there if you look for it, but we have all these cognitive biases that cause us to under appreciate the amount of data that’s out there that can help us make these decisions and we do that because we can’t spend an unlimited time thinking about every little aspect of the world. The world is a very big complicated place, but that general idea that it’s probably an iceberg, you’re probably seeing the tip of it and there’s much more of it under the service, tends to hold true and I’ve only seen a few people who can just trust that idea to be true. I know a guy in Turkey who, here’s what he does. He helps executives at a certain type of investment company give better presentations.

That’s very specific in terms of what he does and he decided he was just gonna focus on the market in Istanbul. This is a person I’ve interviewed, so you can hear more about this in the interview I did on my podcast, but that was a market of six clients for him. That takes real courage and real trust in this idea that the market’s actually bigger, but that’s inevitably what happens. You get into it and you say, “Oh, wow. I didn’t realize … ” I mean, it’s a number of ways it could go from that point. “I didn’t realize what I do is equally valuable for not just this type of investment company, but this other type of bank.” Sorry, I meant to say bank there and my voice cracked. “What I do, there’s actually 500 of these companies worldwide. I’m happy to get on a plane, if they’ll pay my rate, but there were only six in Istanbul,” or “I thought there were six, but there’s actually a few that don’t really advertise, so I didn’t know about them.” Anyway, I’m not trying to bore folks. I’m just saying it’s almost always a bigger part of that iceberg, if you know where to look for it and if you are terrified of this decision, then I recommend that you get on a diving suit and see what the underneath of the iceberg looks like before you decide.

If you can just trust yourself and your instincts, then the chances that you will choose wrongly are vanishingly low. Just make the choice and go for it. Sounds like that may be what you did, Steve.

Yeah, something like that. Well, Philip we could probably go on and on for hours and I know we’re about at the end of our schedule time and I want to be respectful of your time. For folks listening, whether you’ve recognized it or not at this stage, there is some real gold in what we’ve just talked about. I encourage you to go back and listen to it multiple times and I also encourage you to go and connect with Philip, particularly if you’re in any kind of technical business. Philip, what’s the best place for people to go and find you?

I like folks to dip a toe into this idea at There’s a free email course they can sign up for. I feel like that’s a good starting point. It’s not so much about me as it is about this idea and whether now is a good time for you to make these changes to your business. If you’ve been in business for more than a year or two, it probably is, but the best way is to learn more about it at

Perfect. We will link that in the show notes, so if you’re listening to this and didn’t catch that, just go to You’ll find all of that in the show notes and it’ll be linked there. You can find it easily. Philip, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Like I said, I could go on and on this topic for hours with you and have a great time doing it. Thank you so much for investing some time with me today and I know that for everybody listening, I know they got a ton of value out of it, so thanks again.

My pleasure, Steve. Thanks for having me.