Standing tall when you’re not the expert

This is the fifth part of an occasional series on building tech businesses.

You’ve had a brilliant idea to transform [insert name of industry]. As an outsider you can see exactly where the incumbents have gone wrong and you are ready to disrupt. Off you go!

Sometimes however, after the initial excitement and rush of getting started, you begin to wonder about your industry knowledge and credibility. Can you really mix it with all the seasoned operators in the industry?

We’ve often experienced this feeling. At Yarris Technologies we’ve worked across many different fields and had to learn the nuances of different business sectors. Our business peers have been horticulturalists, casting agents, telco constructors, smash repairers, lawyers, psyshometricians and more. Each industry has a distinctly different culture and different communication style.

As a leader of the business you have to be able to represent it proudly in public in whatever industry you happen to be in. That can be daunting if you think your peers are better qualified than you. How do manage that?

If you already happen to be an expert in the industry that’s perfect. The computer scientist slips happily into an IT business and the pharmacist is at home selling medicines etc. As a lawyer I am very happy in my role with Dazychain, helping in-house lawyers work better together.

However, I remember one role which was sometimes daunting for me was as CEO of our startup TestGrid, a pioneer platform for psychometric testing. My peer CEOs were usually psychologists and our target market were psychologists and recruiters. I’m not a psychologist and sometimes it was challenging to promote psychometric tools to people with a deep professional knowledge of the subject when I was just an ex- lawyer with some high-level research under my belt.

The obvious answer was to hire professional psychologists who could talk peer to peer and add more intellectual grunt to the company. That’s what we did as soon as we could afford it and the business went from strength to strength.

TestGrid is still a leading psychometric assessment business now owned and lead by CEO @Gerard Ward.


  • It is often the industry outsider who can spot the opportunity for disruption.
  • As a founder don’t doubt yourself too much if you are not the industry expert. You are the entrepreneur and you can hire experts and you can be the business strategy and sales driver.
  • Whilst I would never have the knowledge of a professional psychologist, I could certainly acquire greater knowledge than most of them about the economics of their market. I enjoy learning as much as I can about new industries and new markets.

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