Highest and best use (HABU)
Starting a professional services business is tough, but not for the reasons I imagined.
So far, the hardest part isn't motivation or discipline, or getting meetings and asking for advice. The hardest part is deciding—based on market needs and my own talents and desires— exactly which professional services are my core.
Last week I met with the leaders of three very different marketing agencies in Denver, to see what kind of work I might do for them in the future. I said that my strengths lay in three areas—writing, generating ideas and selling. I thought that combination might make me useful for winning new business. I could help small agencies grow.
I learned that the idea had merit but needed refining.
"In other words," he asked, “What is my highest and best use?”
I had never heard this phrase before but it resonated immediately. So, I looked it up.
By definition, highest and best use (HABU) pertains to the most profitable use of vacant or refurbished real estate. For example, a house might sell for three times its objective worth if a developer needs the land to complete a strip mall. Or, if the owner of Condo A has her heart set on expanding, then the contiguous Condo B is worth much more to her than it is to you or me. She may pay through the nose.
Real estate aside—though its admittedly hard to ignore in Denver—I am now fixated on the concept of HABU.
What can I do that someone else can’t?
And how does HABU apply when we think of ourselves as business partners, employees, parents or friends?
Maybe I won't hammer at my son to clean his room. Rather I will coach him to communicate transparently and clearly. To express his passions. To travel his own path. That's where I can set a solid example.
Sadly, managers rarely expect employees to contribute at the level of HABU. Rather, they say, "That's Sally's job," or "Swim in your own lane."
As a lifelong lap swimmer, I ask: What could be more lonely or less collaborative than swimming in my own lane? Sure, swimming solo is soothing. And a burst of inspiration my come while I'm doing the breast stroke. But my solo idea can no doubt be improved through collaboration.
When a pool is crowded, swimmers will agree to split their lane. But rarely will they offer to circle swim. That requires them to truly share the space.
As a budding solopreneur, I am in search of people to swim with. Colleagues who will proudly and positively share space where ideas can be improved. Clients for whom I can really make a difference.
Every day I will humbly ponder the question: What is my highest and best use?
And I invite you to consider, What is yours?