Being Capable vs. Being Qualified

I consider myself to be a handy person. I have often proven to myself that I can do something I have never done before and do it well right out of the gate. For example, I had never installed a window in a house alone. I have seen it done from time to time and helped with a couple installations. This time I was the Lone Ranger, even though he had Tonto… I didn’t have a Tonto. 


The trouble started when I couldn’t find the exact size I needed, but I found a window that was close in dimensions. It was a basement window, so finding the exact size wasn’t a top priority. Long story short, I made a couple of filler boards, shimmed it so it was level, and the result is a  nearly perfect basement window that looks great on both sides. Had I had a professional do it, I would be just as pleased.

We are in the middle of finishing our basement, which needs some electrical and plumbing upgrades. One job I’m avoiding entirely is jackhammering up the basement floor to move my plumbing drains. I was convinced I would be the one doing this because it is difficult to find any kind of construction services in my area. In fact, I thought I had a company lined up, but they would never confirm that I was on their books. 

I did find a couple of other companies to come to take a look and one of them was extra knowledgeable. The technician mentioned a few things I hadn’t (and wouldn’t) have thought of if I were doing the project solo. Then, he mentioned something that has been on my mind for years. He said, “Lots of people are capable, but not many are qualified.” I have been telling myself this exact thing for years. For this job, I want someone qualified. So I hired them to do the job.


For any project, no matter the scope or size, it’s important to ask yourself: “Do I need someone capable or someone qualified?” Below are a few considerations as you decide what course to take. 


  1. What is the importance of the project? How critical is the end goal? Is there room for error or time to develop the skill? Personally, if I am switching out light fixtures or putting in a new toilet, being capable is fine. Even if I make a mistake, it is typically not impossible for me to fix. Jackhammering up the floor, exposing drains to reroute the plumbing and updating the breaker box all need to be completed by someone qualified.
  2. Will this present a challenge you can’t handle? Some things you can learn on the fly and may not require a professional. For example, putting something together with detailed instructions. Even if the directions aren’t clear, YouTube most likely has a how-to to help guide you. However, as easy as they make it sound, some projects are going to be out of even a capable person’s hands. You may just need to find the most capable family member or neighbor to assemble your new dresser, but you are going to need someone qualified to put together that two-seater go-kart or risk the safety of yourself and others by doing it yourself. 
  3. Do you have the time and is it worth the money? The age-old question: Do you have the time or the money? Many things out there require the middle ground between being capable v. qualified. Even though you may be both, you might not have the time for something and, if it’s not critical it’s done by you, you should pass the buck. Focus your energy on mission-critical elements that no one else can do.


As a business owner, it is up to you to surround yourself with qualified people. More times than not, you will need to start with a capable person and train them to be qualified. It could even be a position on your team you didn’t realize you needed, like a copywriter. 


Read more about outsourcing your writing with KE Butterfield here.


Gary Butterfield

Gary has over 25 years of management and leadership experience in the service industry. During this time, his focus was team training and development, and Gary has successfully helped numerous cohorts transform into business professionals. Most recently, he served a St. Louis-based SaaS company where he was part of the customer experience team. He coached investors, helping them strategize on how to best use the software as a powerful tool to scale their business and organize their company systems.

Gary is a Certified Digital Marketer by the Digital Marketing Institute and a Professional Certified Marketer by the American Marketing Association.