A few years ago the company I worked for needed a new website. At the time I started, it was a five thousand word manifesto with a picture of the founder standing in front of the building.

While I had a clear idea of what I wanted the site to do, I was not conversant in the web standards for that time. For example, did we need video, and should that be flash or HTML? What’s the best page layout? Light or dark? Like that.

I found a local web designer and set up a meeting. He had done a number of sites I liked, and I thought he would be a good resource.

Our first meeting was our last. Every question I asked was met with the same answer, “We can do anything, just tell me what you want.”

Clearly, he was trying to be accommodating. But I didn’t need accommodation. I needed expertise. I needed someone to give me options based on my goals. But he somehow didn’t get that, no matter how I tried to position my questions.

Providing expertise doesn’t mean doing whatever the boss/client asks. It means understanding what they want, and offering ideas for how to accomplish that goal.

Expertise might also mean challenging the goal, or the process. Expertise means you’ve been here before, and you are willing to show others how to get from here to where they want to go.