In episode 17 of the Your SocialChef Show, I talked to George Dagher of Digital Echoes and discussed the importance of a T-shaped skill set.
1: 13 – 6:32 What is a T-shaped Skill Set
6: 33 – 10:00 T-shaped skill set in the Restaurant Business
10: 02 – 11:21 The Importance of T-shaped Skill Set in Hiring People
11: 22 – 25:32 Finding People With T-shaped Skill Set
Mark: George Dagher, thank you for coming to our Facebook live tonight, all the way from Lebanon. How are you mate? How are you doing?
George: I’m good. I’m good. How are you?
Mark: Very good thanks. So today we’re going to discuss a very important topic, which makes a lot of difference in today’s environment which is, the T-shaped skill set. And what does it mean to the restaurant business or the restaurant owner, or just to any entrepreneur in general? So, can you tell us a little bit about what is the T-shaped term and what does it relate to?
What is a T-shaped Skill Set
George: Well, hello from Lebanon to all your Australian fans. Okay to be honest with you Mark, I’m not a real fan of shiny job titles, and the hierarchy in corporate. I think that job titles are just made to make you feel better but the term T-shaped marketer is a concept everybody should understand whether they’re entrepreneurs or whether they’re employees. So basically a T-shaped marketer has a subset that defines the foundation of the landscape of digital marketing, this is illustrated in the horizontal part of the T, and then the vertical part of the T, presenting the best of knowledge and expertise in specific areas.
So basically, to make it simple, it’s how much do you know, and how well, you know right? For me, we are the people in all aspects of our lives whether it’s marketing, management, even in your personal life, your hobbies, when we were born and when we were toddlers, we learned how to walk, eat, drink. We learn all these skills. We just don’t learn just how to eat, except if you are me, I just learn how to eat to this day :). So, this is who we are. This is human nature to be a T-shaped person, and then you expand your interests, in one of the skills, okay. For example, when I started as an entrepreneur, and actually to this day, when they asked me, what do you do I tell them, well, I’m a CEO, marketer, and I close people. I do a lot of stuff. I cannot just put the title to what I do here. So let’s go deeper into the concept.
Mark: Well, maybe talk about what makes the horizontal part of the T, and then what’s the vertical part of the T? And what’s the difference between the two?
George: Okay.So, so basically let’s start with base knowledge, base knowledge is basically non-marketing specific areas that will suit you, and you like to do it no matter what your job is. Okay. So this is base knowledge. So, for example, you’re interested in behaviour psychology or story telling, or analysis data, design. This is base knowledge. This is what you’re interested in. This is what you love to do. And this is what you wanna know. Now, we go into the marketing side, and you want to apply skills. You don’t want to be able to broadcast what you love and what you do. So here I will go, here we go through the marketing foundations. For example, if you like storytelling, you can go for copywriting, sketches, design Canva, wire frames. If you like data and analytics, you can go for Google analytics, statistics, and funnel marketing. If you like branding, you can go for graphic design and stuff like that. So, basically.
Mark: And that would be, your base you know, the horizontal part of the T. Correct? And then, sorry.
George: Yeah, Go ahead.
Mark: Yeah then, what would be your deep knowledge in that case? Will it be whatever your knowledge is, or whatever your main skill set is. That’s your vertical part of the T, right?
George: Yes. So before we go into that, okay, I need to have, as a marketer. I need to have all these setup steps. I need to know at least the minimum, in each one of them. Okay. and that’s the horizontal part of the T.
George: And then go deeper, because maybe I’m passionate about SEO, and I wanna learn more about SEO, and I want to practice SEO. I love it, okay. So this is where I’m specialised in, this is the vertical part of the T.
Mark: The vertical part of the T. Yes.
George: It’s half the depth of my knowledge. So how deep my knowledge is.
T-shaped Skill Set in the Restaurant Business
Mark: Like, for example you could be, you don’t have to be a marketer to have that T-shaped skill set on you. It could be anything, you could be a restaurant owner, that your part is running restaurants or managing restaurants or being the entrepreneur side of the restaurant business. Then on top of that, you’ve got the horizontal part of the T, where you got an idea about cooking, an idea about kitchen, and an idea about marketing, an idea about copywriting, an idea about media, about public relations, an idea about hiring, and an idea about pricing, and food costs, and all that sort of stuff. Because of this, an idea about accounting, bookkeeping, finance, because all of that, will give you a higher chance to succeed in your operation. You know, even if you weren’t the restaurant owner you could be a chef, and then, you know, your specialty, you’re a chef, you operate the kitchen side of the business. But on top of that, you understand bookkeeping, you understand marketing, you understand hiring, you understand other things in general. Doesn’t have to be that deep of a skillset, but then, all of a sudden everything that you do around the kitchen, you also understand how it would affect or how it would improve other aspects of the business. So that’s, you know, that’s how it can be implemented in the restaurant business, or in any other business.
Would you tell us about some scenarios of being a T-shaped entrepreneur? And then, you know, and how you would use that to your maximum advantage?
George: Well, yes, yes. Sure. So being T-shape means that I’m focused on one skill, but at the same time I know a little bit about other skills, and this will give me an advantage. To be able to communicate with that, with my team members, and to be able to have, to know every single member of my team. Where does he stand in the team, okay? And having that, that horizontal knowledge, will make any team member replaceable, to a certain extent. And let’s say I’m not specialised in design, but I can do some design and our designer is sick and we’ll have something urgent to do. So, here comes the importance of horizontal knowledge, okay? It all comes, it all comes to team communication and knowing what part of the puzzle you make and what part of each member is which piece of the puzzle he is.
Importance of T-shaped Skill Set in Hiring People
Mark: That’s right. Another thing that uses the T-shaped term, in your business, you can also use it in hiring people that have a T-shaped skill set. So then, you know what I mean, you’re about to have two interviews with different managers, or with two different people. One of them has a vast knowledge about a lot of other things other than the core thing, or the core skill set that you’re about to hire them for. And then another person you just have, you go step deep because he’s going to understand, he will know how to communicate with your manager, with your marketing, with your front of house, with your suppliers, with yourself. So, that’s the beauty of being a T-shaped. How would you find or quantify a T shaped person? How would you, how would you look for someone like that?
George: Mark,Can you repeat your question, please.
Mark: Yes. How would you find a T shaped skill set? Someone with a T shape skillset.
Finding People With T-shaped Skill Set
George:Yeah. Okay. So, basically let’s say we want to hire a marketer. Okay. And well, everybody is a marketer here, but we want them to be specialised in SEO. You would hear this, from the first interview and from his CV you would first notice where his focus is. You will know if he is focused and passionate about SEO or not, and this is where you screen. And then of course you would see within the interview you’re gonna ask them questions, and see passionately what he thought, what maybe. Maybe he knows, we’re looking for someone specialised in SEO and you will like it. It’s gonna show, sooner or later, his knowledge, his depth of knowledge, and then, and all that. So, let’s go out a little bit. Hiring is one of the hardest things an entrepreneur can do. So, I think that’s why there are HR agencies and hiring as well is one of the hardest things I’ve ever encountered in my career. And I tell you why Mark, because firing someone is very hard. Sometimes you go into an interview, you hire, you love the guy. You love them, he is perfect, he is exactly what you need. You hire them, the next day he comes, the second day he comes, the next week he comes, you realise he’s not fit for your organisation. And it’s hard to tell him to go off, It’s hard to fire them. It’s very hard, especially in medium and small companies, to connect with people, because it’s not that you’re not in a big , mega, corporate company. You live with them every day, and it’s hard to fire them. And sometimes you discover he’s not fit for what you want the next week. And it takes six or seven months of lost money, lost time and lost energy, for him to leave.
Mark: That’s right. Well, look, one of the strategies that we use in our business is, it’s called, “you put the feelers out.” Which means you’re always putting job applications out at all times because sometimes even if you’re not looking for someone, you might put your hands on someone, that’s worth hiring straight away. So don’t only look for people when you only need to hire people, look for people at all times. And then, you know, you might be able to hire someone on the spot. You might be able to hire them later on, but never, ever go to market only when you need someone. You know? So that’s one of the strategies that will give you a little bit of a safenet and some viable options to pick and choose. And in a way that you’re not in a rush and you’re not under pressure, you know? So, that’s one of the things.
George: It should be known. The term “lost opportunity”, where businesses find that they didn’t catch the right moment, or the right opportunity. For me, “lost opportunity” is basically, someone might have skills and you weren’t able to hire for any reason. This is the most important “lost opportunity” you can have in a business, because at the end of the day, you’re not hiring him. You’re not upgrading your services. And, he’s gonna get fired by your competitors.
Mark: That’s correct. And that’s being a T-shaped talent. I believe it’s very important today during COVID-19 or during Coronavirus,because one person can replace two or three people in your organisation. You know, you’ll get the maximum return on investment out of one person. If you were smart, in the way that, you know, the way that you research, and the way that, you look for people. What would you say about that, George? Wouldn’t you agree with that?
George: Yeah. Well, having a T-shaped personality, and especially the horizontal part, would give flexibility to the team. The team would be able to somehow stop functioning with two members, 10 members, or 15 members. And your team can go up and down as, at the end your results, would not be as much effective or proportioning will not be proportionately affected. And especially in times of crisis, for example, during the pandemic, or during a bad economy, you can downsize your team. Being affected by the quality.
Mark:Okay. Then there is the other part, being having that skillset, the horizontal skillset, and the vertical skillset. It makes you hard to fire. You know, people will think 10 times before they fire you. They’ll probably fire a lot of people in the organisation before they even think of firing you, because you pretty much represent two or three or four talents in you just being there inside the business. So again, especially in recession times, in the downturn during this time, now, it’s very, very valuable currency, for being a person with a multi skill set. Now, I guarantee you today, if you go and look up businesses today, and you find which people they kept on board when covid kicked in, because they fired a lot of people, but which people they kept on board? They kept the ones that have a multi skill set that’s going to help them out in different ways, that’s who’s staying on board today.
Mark: And that’s, if you want to keep your job in the next pandemic, or you want to get a job today you better start getting, adding skills on top of your list.
George: Exactly. I tell my team, your job title is the Joker, you are a Joker. You know, in the playing cards you have the Joker, where it’s a wild card. You are a wild card. I don’t care if you don’t know graphic design, you’re gonna learn it, if we need it, you’re gonna learn it, we need to learn it. We all started somewhere. I started not knowing anything about building websites. Then one day, one client told me and asked me, well, I need to build the website. I told him, of course, we know, we do websites. We’ve always done that. So I started alone, working alone. I started alone. I went out and searched how you can build websites. Of course, I needed help from other people, where their vertical depth of knowledge is building websites, but, I didn’t know anything about how the website functions. or what code do you use, is it HTML, PHP, or Java, or whatever code, you’re using for the website. I wouldn’t have landed the job. And then later on you get someone, asking for a mobile app, which is completely different from a website. If you have an idea you can, there are two types of mobile apps, native, where you put the code for iOS, and another code for Play Store, and you’ll have the hybrid, which is one code, and you can, you can launch it on both. Sometimes you just need to know the basics in order to convince your clients that you are fit to do the job. And later on, this is where I was talking about communication. You come back to the office, or if you don’t have an office, if you don’t have a team, you go and see a freelancer. And you tell him, look, we have this job, how can we prepare a proposal? What are the technicals? Give me your opinion. Can this be done? Can this not be done? And all that. And by the way, your knowledge, in sectors, or a box where, when you’re not specialised and the more you know, the more you can manage your teams, the more you know about, for example, with graphic design,the more you know that this specific task can be done,, or cannot be done, usually all of us, at least, you know how much time roughly they need to finish specific tasks. If you have zero knowledge it can go forever and you think you can do it. Same thing with the website, same thing with SEO, and all that. And more, more importantly with results. Sometimes, if you’re not getting good results from, let’s say email marketing, and you know nothing about it, you think, you will think, that it’s not gonna work for this specific client. Email marketing is not the right channel to promote or to market for.
George: But if you do know, you know that, there might be something wrong in the settings and the audience in the content, maybe. So here you can interact and you can just give your input even though it’s not deep, even though it’s not, you’re not finding the right solution but you may be guiding your team in finding themselves.
Mark: George, thank you very much for your time with us. Is there any last word you would like to add?
George: First of all thank you very much, for having me all the way from Australia. And I just wanna tell your audience that I’ve known you for years, and I know how dedicated you are to your work. And I’m sure the ones that are watching, that are working with you, I’m sure they know how valuable you can be for companies. And I invite those who don’t work with you to, to give it a try, they will not regret.
Mark: Well, tell us about your agency, George. And what you do, and and how, if someone wants to get in touch with you.
George: Yeah, well, we are Digital Echoes, a company based in Lebanon, but we serve a base in Lebanon, Qatar also, we serve almost every country. We specialise in marketing basically and mainly digital. We are passionate about what we do. That is our key. And our why is to help entrepreneurs, build their businesses, not just to build their businesses but because we believe that entrepreneurs are the foundation of any economy, and that’s our why. our website is digitalechoes.net. You can follow us on Instagram,Facebook, LinkedIn.
Mark: Brilliant man. George, thank you very much once again, and I look forward to another call.
George: Sure. Soon!