Leveraging Your Talents to Drive Your Business

There are a lot of talented people in the world, but to achieve success, talent is not enough. You need to know how to leverage your talent. I often coach on what I consider to be the four pillars of success, and TALENT is the first of these pillars (the other three being income, relationships, and enjoyment). It has to start with using your talents, but for many entrepreneurs, making the most of their talent—their unique vision—is often obstructed by working too hard for too little of a return. This was the case for my client, Dr. Nwamaka Ngoddy, who needed to focus on leveraging her talents so she could drive her business exactly where she wanted it to go.

As an optometrist in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Ngoddy had a bustling practice catering to a largely Black demographic. She found that her patients struggled to find glasses that would fit their features well. As a first-generation American with Nigerian parents, she had experienced this problem herself and wanted to create a fashionable and quality eyewear line that would solve this problem for her community as well as others. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the bandwidth or time to focus on this dream.

A lack of time and focus is a common issue for entrepreneurs, and in particular, for women and women of color. As Dr. Ngoddy notes, “I’m used to people asking me for stuff. I don’t want to ask for help.” The solution is to delegate everything that is not related to your talent to your team and create systems that support your goals.

Freeing her of the day-to-day administrative tasks was the first step, so we needed to ensure that her staff was performing well and that systems were in place to guarantee accountability. Many of these steps can be uncomfortable, and Dr. Ngoddy will admit that she wanted to be the “fun boss,” which often put her at odds with a few much-needed conversations. Enlisting her team to create a training manual that outlined their responsibilities made it easier for Dr. Ngoddy to ensure tasks were being done, and if there was a problem area, address it.

The next step was making sure that she was paying herself a salary and taking days off. You can’t access your talent when you put yourself last.

Once the practice was on track, Dr. Ngoddy could focus on her vision. Creating a new eyeglass line is not, as she says, “Google-able.” She wasn’t interested in taking a pre-existing line and simply putting her name on it. She wanted to design something beautiful from the ground up. With the best intentions, Dr. Ngoddy purchased design software so she could create her blueprint. The DIY approach is a common tendency among creative entrepreneurs, but it squanders energy and talent better used elsewhere. Dr. Ngoddy and I worked together to create a team that included someone who could create vector designs.

With the designs in place, she needed to find a manufacturer. Again, she had to face her fear and discomfort around asking for help. She went to Zoom conferences and industry events and expanded her network. A turning-point moment occurred at a high-level event when she found herself on the wrong side of the velvet rope. Knowing that the heavy hitters were on the other side, she made eye contact with one of the organizers, and despite her fear, asked to be admitted despite her late enrollment. Fortunately, there was a cancellation—but without asking, she never would have been able to make the most of that opportunity. During the event, she gathered the information she needed to move forward and spoke with people who connected her to more people.

Now that she was fully aligned with her goal and tapping into her talents, she was empowered and building critical momentum. Systems and strategies were in place, her practice was doing well, and Dr. Ngoddy had faced her fears in asking for help. She found a manufacturer in Greece that could deliver the kind of quality and style that she wanted her customers to enjoy. The last piece was generating income.

A common pitfall for entrepreneurs is to go into debt for their vision, which can encumber them in the long run. Investing in an impressive website is useless without a customer base; it’s better to focus on the substance before the surface. As an example, I didn’t have a website for my Take Back Your Time Program until it was generating six figures through word-of-mouth alone. I apply the same principles with my clients and helped Dr. Ngoddy to orient herself wisely for the same success. She resisted the urge to launch before taking the time to test out the samples, making sure that each one had the premium quality that she had envisioned. Now that the product is in place and the quality is guaranteed, she is ready to launch. The frames are on presale and the orders are pouring in. This is what leveraging your talent looks like.

Living your dream does not mean late nights, burnout, and watching your life slip by while your talents remain underutilized. It means discerning the goal of your talent and then delegating everything else. It means remaining hyper-focused, enlisting support to overcome fears and obstacles, and asking for help. Doing so will allow you to live the life you’ve been dreaming of.