I received excellent advice before starting my first corporate role:
“Make yourself indispensable.”
So I did. I operated within a niche. I was an Actuary who could code and build financial models. This mix of skills drastically increased my market value. Yet, the world is always evolving. So, how does someone remain valuable?
A Common Problem
Linchpin: somebody in an organization who is indispensable - who cannot be replaced because their role is too unique and valuable.
Linchpins usually aren’t commendable. Often, they’re overseeing terrible processes and concealing knowledge from peers.
It’s politics. Otherwise, we’re calling the person’s usefulness into question. Smooth processes are easily understood, and knowledge sharing removes their advantage.
In this state, you’re problematic and a risk.
That is the worst way to retain “value”.
Ask The Right Questions
Technology is continually advancing e.g.
Article | GPT-3 means machines could eventually replace writers.
Video | Self-driving cars could soon replace taxis and delivery services.
Product Hunt | Countless products are launched daily.
Many roles will eventually disappear with the rise of AI, machine-learning, no-code, advanced robotics, etc.
If solving a problem today makes captures your value, then someone is conceiving ways to automate this by tomorrow. So, ask yourself:
Could someone build solutions that could replace you?
Is the world’s general trajectory reducing or amplifying your value?
Can others strategise to make you invaluable?
Could your role eventually be automated, made easier, or insignificant?
When your value is exclusively attached to something you do, then you’ll always face the risk of replacement.
Moat: a way to retain your competitive advantage - for example:
Switching Costs - ensuring replacement is expensive;
Complexity - highly complicated function; and
Low price - often achieved through economies of scale.
These Moats are relatively defensive. Progressively, competitors begin eating away your value. They’ll make switching easier, tackle complexities and leverage capital injections for scale.
The best MOATs preserve value by increasing value:
Everything is becoming commoditised. White-label products are replacing everything we do. So lasting moats require human elements:
Branding: Nowadays, anyone can build a product that resembles Facebook or Google within hours. Out-of-the-box solutions exist. The biggest differentiator between products will be branding. For the 21st-century company, authenticity, storytelling and missions are soaring in importance.
P.S. The same applies to individuals. Most jobs come via networking and referrals. In a remote world, your online presence may outweigh your CV.
Bo Ren @BosefinaThe “substackification” of knowledge workers is happening bc people are increasingly becoming freelancers. Bc you don’t own your own patents or IP working for institutions knowledge workers are looking for ways to create a portfolio of thoughts, opinions, and unique perspective.
Communities: I’ve written about online communities before because they’re so underrated. Competitors can replicate products, but not relationships.
Healthy communities create strong relationships, loyalty, and alignment. Well-managed, they’re hard to penetrate.
VCs like Lolita Taub & Jesse Middleton have spotted this and invest in startups with community moats.
Niches: Protect your value by operating within a narrow niche. Blending skills creates new markets and offers new forms of value. Nobody can be you. The more unique the blend of skills required, the more difficult it is to replicate what you do.
“Is any man afraid of change? What can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature”
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Someone can always improve a function - so don’t fear change, embrace it. Become a lifelong learner. It’s a form of adapting in a world that’s forever changing.
As some final food for thought, ask yourself:
What value do I currently offer?
Does my value grow or shrink with time?
Newsletter: Thanks for all the fantastic feedback from the last post! If you want me to write about a topic, email me. Additionally, these newsletters are free, so please do share it if you like it!
Instagram: Launched an Instagram page for the newsletter. Shares and follows would be appreciated!
Work: Started making a budgeting spreadsheet. I am hoping to wrap it up this week and place it on sale via Gumroad.
Book: Finished Atomic Habits by James Clear. Onto The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
Random: I joined Clubhouse this week. Convos have been good. I appreciate the human element. Get in touch with me on the platform: RichAwo.
Europe’s Newest Unicorn | Hopin worth $2.1 billion 8 months after launch.
New EdTech startup | By the co-founders Udemy and altMBA.