When it comes to running your own business, one thing that can help your start-up business really thrive is getting the right advice.
Unfortunately, in our experience of working closely with over 160 new businesses in the last few years, there is a lot of bad advice out there. This blog aim to tackle this head on by educating you so that you can avoid being burnt by someone else’s bad advice.
“NO ENEMY IS WORSE THAN BAD ADVICE” – Socrates
I fundamentally believe that the business community is genuinely one of the most welcoming that exists; I’ve lost count of the number of people that have grabbed a coffee with me to share advice, contacts and knowledge, without wanting anything in return. That being said, you should be measured when listening to what others have to say when it comes to running your business. It is not that the advice is given with the wrong intention, but it can sometimes be so out of context.
Friends And Family
When it comes to having an idea for a new business, the first person you might discuss this with is a close friend or family member to gain their thoughts and advice. This can be a dangerous move for several reasons, particularly given that your business is at such an early stage, where the slightest hint of negativity could kill it instantly.
“That won’t work”, “that’s been done already” or (my personal favourite) “get a real job!”. I will tackle this last comment by dedicating a whole blog to this in the next few weeks but as for the first two, it can be challenging to hear this and to some motivating. On the one hand, they could be right…but what if they’re wrong?
Has your friend or family member ever run a business before? Therefore, are they really qualified to tell you if your new business idea will work or not? On this point, is anyone? Even the “experts” get it wrong! Plus you never know what life is going to throw at you next.
Alternatively, you also have to contend with the “X-Factor” effect, when it comes to advice for your new business, especially from partners, friends or family members. “You can really sing so go for it!” – sometimes this is the worst thing you can hear.
In this situation, you need someone to say, “you can’t sing (yet!)”, “maybe try a different genre of music” or “look at joining a singing school” – and the same is true for your new business idea.
Just because your friends and family think you can sing doesn’t make you a good singer.
However, that’s not to say your idea is dead in the water, you should ask yourself challenging questions and conduct some real research to see if there’s demand for your product and enough of this to build a sustainable business.
You also need to be wary of what you tell friends and family members, who really don’t “get it” – which is fine by the way.
Don’t tell them everything and don’t talk about your new business all of the time because you’ll drive them nuts! It’s great that you’re so excited about your business idea but they really don’t want to hear about it 24/7! Therefore, it’s better to find people who are in business, who do “get it” so that you can bounce ideas off them.
Again, some words of warning: some business owners don’t know why they’re successful or not, and what works for their business may not work for you. Be wary of picking up bad habits from other business owners, just because they think that way or do that particular activity , doesn’t mean it’s “right”. Try to find someone with experience in your field who is “successful”.
Friends and family aside, there is no shortage of other people who will offer (free) advice for your new business.
Bankers, other business owners and business support agencies, to name but a few. Before taking any advice, you have to determine their qualifications, as I mentioned earlier with your friends and family. This doesn’t mean whether they went to College or University or not, it means have they actually got a relevant business background that would give their advice merit – have they run their own business before or at least been involved in a start-up?
I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories of people saying, “this idea has no legs”, “you’ll never amount to anything” or “there’s no market for this”. And this “business” advice usually comes from those who have never run a business before in their life!
Why Are You Telling Me This?
As well as establishing the “qualifications” of those that give you advice for your new business, you should also try to determine why they’re telling you what they’re telling you.
Not to plant the seeds of doubt in your mind or tar everyone with the same brush, but it’s important that you understand why someone is giving you advice – what’s their real motivation? What’s in it for them?
I said earlier that the business community is one of the most genuinely welcoming and helpful, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t those out there that will try to rip off naive new business owners.
Choose What Advice You Listen To
People will not be shy to give you advice on your new business and they may genuinely believe that they are being helpful but ensure you adopt a critical mindset when receiving this. The funny thing is, if you listened and acted upon everyone’s’ advice you’d never get anywhere!
You’d be so busy constantly making tweaks and changes, possibly based on the advice of those without the right qualifications, perhaps with an ulterior motive and certainly not someone who would buy from you!
Therefore, some of the best people to ask advice from are potential or current customers – although a word of caution, what people say and do can sometimes be different things entirely. And I’m sure you’ve heard Henry Ford’s famous line:
“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!”.
Additionally, most people hate giving others criticism so will just tell you “it’s nice”, which doesn’t really help you. It’s always better to hear when things are working well or where improvements can be made. Thankfully, I have many friends (and family members) who don’t have a problem telling me as it is, which is extremely helpful, even if it’s not what I want to hear!
Finally, we believe that you shouldn’t give someone business advice unless you really understand their business. Of course, you can give general pointers and basic advice but at a more deep level, you shouldn’t advise them unless you’re truly understand, their business, their market and what they’re trying to achieve.
On our 20 week Business Accelerator Programme, we work with 15 new businesses (“Awesome Acorns”) and due to this limited number, we get to know them closely, so feel confident giving them more specific business advice.
We’ll leave you with a final piece of advice from our friend, Eddie Murphy: “the advice I would give to someone is to not take anyone’s advice!”