How do I add value?

Value matrix showing an arrow in a bullseye at the quadrant of high value and low cost
Cost-value matrix

We’ve all heard about value-added work, but how does one add value? If it were easy, we’d all be successful entrepreneurs, but effective value propositions are notoriously hard to achieve. For one reason or another, it’s difficult to find out what people want to accomplish. After all, they don’t know what they want to do most of the time. In addition, desires change by the second. Let’s talk!

The heart of this challenge is to discover what frustrates people most, what they want to do or what they’d like to have. Perhaps it’s something that drives them insane about the way they work. Can you help them to identify that problem and deliver better results? If you tap into a problem shared by many people, you may have a profitable, value-added service or product. On the other hand, you may be one of many vendors offering the same thing.

If you want to stand out, you must answer the following question: “Why should I use your services or products if someone else can do it at a lower cost or I can do it at no cost”? With today’s rapid pace of innovation, you have to show that you can do much more than use tools. You need to demonstrate that you possess a deep understanding of tools and theory, and establish a track record for getting the job done quickly, if not instantly, at a substantially lower cost.

At this point, you may wonder what’s in it for you. After all, cutting the time and lowering costs doesn’t seem very profitable. The answer is simple: you’ll be able to handle significantly more work with little or no overhead. As you learn to work faster than anyone else and deliver better results, word will spread and you’ll attract more clients and your profits will increase dramatically.

In the years ahead, technology will continue to level the playing field. This development holds a promise and a potential curse. You can strike out on your own and compete with overhead-laden corporations, or you can lose your shirt to other cost-competitive consultants and fixed-price contracts. Whether you strike out on your own or stay with a company, the question remains. How do you add value?

Start by finding out what you do best, and document a repeatable method for completing every task in your process. Consider multiple tools and methods for your work, but settle on the ones that allow the greatest flexibility at the lowest overhead cost.

Then, interview your supervisor or clients, find out exactly what they want to do and document it in detail. Brainstorm with them to identify and implement a well-documented solution that meets their specifications, saves time and protects their bottom line.

Finally, do not focus on technology! If a stone-age mallet will meet your customer’s needs, you don’t need a laser-guided hammer with a learning curve and a thousand-dollar price tag. If you follow these rules, you’ll add value to your company, your clients and yourself.