How can tech companies compete with DIY trend? Complex skillsets are key

By JJ Rosen April 12, 2021

By Atiba Founder & CEO, JJ Rosen; This article originally appeared in The Tennessean

The idea of giving myself a haircut had never crossed my mind.

Since I was a kid, my hairstyle has always been described as “basic” or sometimes “bland.”  With its average length, no distinct part, and no “product” (because I never really knew what that meant), I have never outgrown the bowl look that was so popular in the 70s.

Despite my simple style that requires only two minutes of a barber’s time to trim, I had always assumed that when it comes to haircuts, “do it yourself” was a bad idea — something better left to the professionals.

Then the coronavirus came along and shut everything down.  With the help of YouTube and an online tutorial, I gave it a try.

The results were mixed.

There were some uneven parts that I was unable to resolve and a small area of missing hair above my ear that I accidentally shaved off.   But overall, with the internet as my guide, it turned out ok.  As my own barber, I would give myself a strong C.

Cutting my own hair turned out to be just one of the many do-it-yourself projects I ended up attempting this past pandemic year.

Between my wife and me, we somehow managed to fix a leaky faucet, change out the belt on a dryer, syphon a clogged air conditioning duct, replace a broken lock, install a home security system and repair a vacuum cleaner.  Not bad considering we were clueless as to how any of these things worked before the pandemic shutdown.

The DIY (“do it yourself”) trend is nothing new.  There’s always been a subset of society that are die-hard DIY-ers purely for the fun of it.

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But with COVID-19 forcing us to isolate from one another, coupled with the resulting economic consequences that have hurt so many, the cost savings and virus risk reduction of the DIY approach is more compelling than ever before. It’s no longer the domain of cheapskates (like myself) or those that are good with a hammer and saw.

Thanks to YouTube and the web, from haircuts in the kitchen to oil changes in the driveway, anyone has a good shot at tackling increasingly complex DIY tasks.

But for many businesses, the growth of the “DIY economy” has introduced new challenges.

Companies are used to competing with other companies. But with the growth of DIY over the past 13 months, many companies are now having to compete with the very people they are hoping to serve.  Customers have a choice whether to pay someone for their expertise or simply attempt to do it on their own with the internet as their teacher.

In the tech services sector, the idea of a non-techie building their own website or a non-engineer troubleshooting their own PC used to be unheard of. Today, however, many of these tasks can be done by anyone with access to a web browser.

So how can companies that depend on selling their expertise compete with this growing DIY trend?

When considering the DIY approach, there are three reasons people opt to hire a professional versus doing it themselves.

First, they judge whether the job is just too complex, regardless of how much guidance they find online.  My simple bowl haircut felt doable, but my wife’s more complex hairstyle — no way. (She’s using the “wait it out” approach, by the way.)

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Second, they consider whether a job would simply take too much time, even if it’s possible.  I could build a new file server for our company myself, but it would take 10 times the amount of time than just ordering one online.

And finally, they evaluate the consequences of a potential DIY job gone bad. I could possibly use YouTube to walk me through replacing my car’s brakes, but the consequences of doing the job incorrectly are not worth the risk.

So, the key for companies that compete with the DIY-ers is to grow their skillsets around complex tasks, deliver results fast and focus on selling services that are too risky to be done wrong. And of course, there’s always the option for businesses to upcharge to repair the damage done by the DIY approach — something I just recently learned from my barber.

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