MEMBER BLOG: The Do-it-yourself Trap

August 7, 2017

Mark Hannon, Mark Hannon Art Direction & Design

The Do-it-yourself Trap

Have you ever taken on a leaky pipe project in your home on a Sunday afternoon? Plumbers charge a premium to work on weekends so the option to take this project on yourself can seem tempting. If you happen to be a plumber, or if you have previous plumbing experience, no problem. But for a beginner this may involve trying to squeeze into a cramped space under a sink while you pause and play the YouTube plumbing tutorial you googled on your smartphone.

If all goes well, you’ll be the conquering hero. Mister Big Shot. But if something goes wrong and Mr. Fix it’s YouTube tutorial leaves out a step, chances are you won’t make it to the dinner table, and will probably work late into the night. Around 2:30 Monday morning, you’ll make that call to the plumber.

I want to ask you, a small business owner, a question; what is your most important role? Take a moment to think about this before you continue reading.


OK, I’ll go first. The role of a business owner is to run your business. This means being 100% present for your customers and employees. 100% present means that you are the #1 sales rep for your business. You return customer calls promptly to solve problems, make sure your suppliers have the information they need to deliver the right order on time, and make sure your employees have the resources, tools and answers they need to do their jobs. There is more to it than that but the point is you need to be there for your business. Your business depends on YOU.

Hopefully that was your answer. If not, you may need to rethink your priorities.

One way a business owner can sabotage their focus is to fall into the “Do-It-Yourself Trap.” Here are two client examples:

There was the business owner who was struggling to create a trifold brochure in Microsoft Word to promote his business at a trade show. 

  • Just an aside here – Microsoft Word has an important function in a modern office but there are better tools to produce this type of work more efficiently and with more professional-looking results. Many of these more advanced tools have a high learning curve.

Back to the story: after spending a few days on the trifold project, the quality and appearance wasn’t meeting this client’s expectations. He pulled in other staff hoping their ideas would part the waters and lead this project to the Promised Land.

Learning moment: remember the saying about “too many cooks” in the kitchen.

In another instance, another small business owner was attempting to build a website with a free website builder.

  • Another aside: there are several of these free web builders on the internet. All of them promise an “easy drag & drop” interface to build a professional-looking website “in minutes.” Every trap needs bait to snare its victims and “Easy drag & drop” is the bait that pulls you into the DIY trap. The dirty little secret is that it is almost impossible to build a drag & drop interface a complete novice can master.

This business owner had been struggling for the better part of a week, trying to get the results he wanted and the “easy drag & drop” interface was fighting him at every step. It didn’t take long for him to be completely fed up and to start looking for help.

The DIY trap lures you into believing you can save money by taking on technically advanced work regardless of your expertise or experience. The trap tries to distract you and make you lose sight of your most important role; to be 100% present for your customers and employees.

The DIY trap knows human nature. The promise of cheap, easy solutions lures us in. When those cheap, easy solutions prove more challenging than promised, we are compelled to double down…sometimes to the point of obsession. I’m guilty of this myself. We hate the idea of this cheap, easy solution outsmarting us. The trap convinces us to invest more attention and time than we should.

Think you can avoid the trap by delegating the task to an assistant or intern? Think again. They will struggle with the task every bit as much as you, and the last thing they want to admit to the boss is that they are failing. Now they will pull other employees away from their work to fix the problem. And when all those cooks can’t save the broth, you’ll soon be pulled in too.

So, there are still jobs exempt from the do-it-yourself trap. To get back to the opening DIY plumbing example, if a pipe bursts in the employee washroom, you call the building super or a plumber. The business owner or Director of Operations would never get personally involved.

But no one can predict the future. Someday soon, a well-funded startup entrepreneur may launch a do-it-yourself website promising easy plumbing repair that anyone can do…in minutes!

When that day arrives, I predict plumbers will have as much or more work than they do now. Because when that day arrives, it will be a common sight to see waterfalls cascading out of third-story office windows. 

When the plumbing contractor arrives on-site and wades into the flooded office, if by some miracle the electronics haven’t shorted out, the plumber will pass the intern’s desk with the website “EZ Drag & Drop Plumbing Repair” displayed on the laptop monitor.

Mark Hannon is a graphic and web designer and active BRBC member who helps recovering do-it-yourself small business owners get back to running their businesses.

Visit the Mark Hannon Art Direction & Design website or email Mark via this link to the BRBC Business Directory.