In any business organization, there are two types of sub-units or teams.
- Profit Centers
- Cost Centers
Profit Center is the team/department which gets the company money and thereby profits. They bring in the dough/bacon. One of the common example of a profit center is the sales department. Unless you have sales, you wouldn’t have customers and thereby no money.
Everything other than a profit center is a Cost center. Any team or department of a company to which various types of direct and indirect costs are charged are cost centers. It could be the Production or service departments in a factory, operations team, IT department, etc.
Why does it matter?
It matters because any company always wants to maximise the profit. And basic math shows that there are only two ways to maximise profit:
- increase sales (or)
- decrease expenses
When a company has made all possible efforts to increase sales, the only remaining thing to try is to decrease expenses. And the learned MBAs usually try to fire people in cost centers first. They might outsource your job to a cheaper location. Or try to automate your work by using some latest buzzword technology (read AI).
What should you do?
If you are part of the Profit Center, you have nothing to worry about. Except maybe till the day your jobs are also automated with AI bots which handles sales.
But if you are a cost center, try to move as close to the profit center as possible. Stop being in your own little world where you handle just computers and debug programs – those are just 20% of a company. Instead step out and understand how the remaining 80% operate.
Understand the intricacies of a cold call or lead generation tactics, attend sales calls as a mute spectator. If you are working in a startup, you have a lot of opportunities to attend these meetings. Just ask if you can be in the room and observe. Most probably you will be allowed.
Jack of all > Master of One
In today’s world, being the best programmer or designer or marketing expert or whatever-you-do is not enough. You should always learn other skills too. Diversification is always needed.
If you are programmer, learn a bit of design. It could be visual design or product design or even basic typography. Learn a bit about how to market products. Or how to manage projects and handle client delivery. Always learn to juggle multiple balls in the air.
The reason why I say so is pretty simple. If you are the best single-skilled person in the company, it is very easy to replace you. Many times, you are just another programmer who can be swapped out with another equivalent programmer.
But if your skills span across multiple departments, the sum total of all the combination of skills is very hard to swap out. There aren’t too many programmer+marketer+designer+project managers in the world to replace you.
What skills do I have?
If you take me, I am a programmer by profession. But I have interests in building product startups and know how to build products. I am also very interested in Marketing, especially content marketing and also love copywriting.
Product design, usability and user experience is another field that I find very interesting. Every day I see numerous products that are badly designed and find it amusing how/why the designer did such a bad job.
Apart from these, I have also learnt about Social Psychology and persuasion. Understanding how humans behave in different social situations is fascinating. So is understanding how money, finances and investments work.
Now I agree that I might not know everything about all the topics I have mentioned above. But I know enough to understand and apply what I learn.
And there is exactly one person in the whole world who has all those skills I mentioned above in the specific quantities I have. And that makes me a very potent individual.
Apply the different skills
But what use is all these skills if you are unable to utilise them? Try to talk to your boss AND boss of other departments and ask them how you can help them. It could be as simple as checking for grammatical mistakes in the copy of your marketing department. Or doing hallway usability tests for your design team.
Make sure your different skills are recognized by your employer and try to make yourself unique and irreplaceable. Maybe this combination would take you on a completely different journey altogether. And overall it will help you to appreciate the work others put in and see them in a totally new light.
What different skills do you? Leave them in the comment below.
Also published on Medium.