rob-sepulvedaThe title of this post changed several times before settling on the one above. First it was “Professional vs. Amateur Production,” and then it was “The Value of Professional Production.” But using professional in the title was misleading, because everyone knows you should hire professionals, right? Of course, but what makes a pro a pro?

Professional as a Distinction

Professional is a word that’s part of our undistinguished vernacular. We don’t really have to think about what it means. We know it implies: experience, expertise, even wisdom. We could be cynical and say that it really means: anyone who gets paid for performing a skill or a task. But, just because you claim expertise in something doesn’t mean that you’re good at it or that others agree that you’re good at it.

We’re making this distinction about professional because we’d argue that all too often people claim a particular expertise, ground it with some examples of their work, but what they deliver is underwhelming. And, it’s this claim that we’d like to explore further in this post.

Who Confers Expertise?

You do, don’t you? Aren’t you the one who decides who’s a pro and who is not? I’ll show you what I mean…

There are issues with the heat in my new apartment and one bedroom is significantly cooler than the rest of the place. So I called a couple of heating contractors in to offer their assessment and recommend some kind of fix.

The first guy does this very intricate drawing of the place, the location of all the ducts and returns, where walls and door and windows are located and, by the way, it takes him nearly an hour to do this. Then he says that he’s going to put all this data into a piece of software that’s kind of like a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program – like the kind that architects and engineers use – only this program helps design a heating and cooling system. Then he says he’s going to show the results to his engineering staff and come up with a set of recommendations.

The second guy comes in a looks around, and counts the number of heat registers, pokes around in the furnace room and says, “well, you could zone the system with electronic dampers or maybe you could install a larger furnace. I don’t know, I’ll ask my engineer and get back to you,” and leaves. He takes no measurements and writes nothing down.

Now it could be that the second contractor has a ton of experience and he’s going to come through with a fabulous solution, but the impression each man left was night and day. The first guy took an engineering approach to an engineering problem. He was thorough, explained everything he was doing, described how a furnace and air flow work and what might have to be changed to improve our system and promised when he’d get back to us. The second contractor shrugged and said, “Well, maybe…”

Professional Articulated

Some of the things that define professionalism include:

  • Attention to detail
  • A willingness to demystify what might appear to be complicated ideas, processes, or practices – in other words, one who will draw back the curtain, so you can see the Wizard
  • Doesn’t try to hide anything – including any hidden fees or costs – is up front about explaining any potential pitfalls or problems that may arise and what they’ll do to mitigate them
  • Anticipates questions before you ask them
  • Can provide enthusiastic references
  • Follows up
  • Follows through – honors their word
  • Shares something about the their lives that has nothing to do with the business at hand, but allows you to assess the person, their character and to get to know them as a person with a real life. This is kind of a bonus as some prefer to separate a business context from a personal one, but the plumber who got down on the floor to play with my dog and talked about his dog at home, made a big difference in my choice to hire him.)
  • Communicates and provides status as a matter of course
  • Provides letters of agreement or contracts designed to protect both parties
  • Acts with integrity

We expect these things, but a consummate professional delivers more:

  • Desires to learn about you and your business
  • Asks about your future plans and goals
  • Expresses curiosity about your sensibility and taste
  • Wants to understand your business’ practices and conventions
  • Intends to keep you as a customer for a long time and treats you accordingly

In Part II we’ll connect this notion of professionalism to business video production.