by John Ingrisano
“Seek advice, but use your own common sense.” – Yiddish Proverb
As a business owner, I love good advice. However, there is darn little of it out there, at least in terms of my specific situation. I have also grown to detest unsolicited advice, if only because it always comes from people who (A) have no idea what I do; (B) are perfectly willing to risk my money, not theirs; and (C) tend to be dismal failures who have screwed up their own lives, so (I suspect) figure it is time to move on and try to help others screw up theirs.
So, when I want good advice, I first study an issue in as much detail as I can. Then I go for a walk with Rocky, my Boxer, and chew over the information. Eventually – sometimes instantly – I figure out the best course of action for me and for my business. I generally give myself good advice. It took a long time to learn to trust my instincts, though.
I once made the mistake of listening to sincere, well-intentioned people who had no experience, did not understand money, and did not understand business. (I call it my soft-headed business phase.) It was disastrous. Their real purpose, more often than not, was to impress others with their unique ideas and methods for approaching everything from answering the phone to running a meeting to marketing to pet owners to cooking fish.
“Well, why not give it a shot?” they would advise, as they would sit back and begin to think up the next untested, outlandish idea to share with me. As I said, these ideas always required my time and my money. (I learned eventually that when someone said he/she was a “big-picture, concept person,” I should immediately turn tail and run. That person had nothing to offer me or anyone else who lived and sweated and worked in the very real world of day-to-day details.)
In the end, it turned out that these dear people were having a ball … with my money. They were bold and daring … again, with my money. They were brilliant, brimming with amazing ideas; all they required was …. you guessed it: my money.
For me, it was a valuable and costly lesson. The costly part was that it sent my otherwise solid business ventures into a tailspin. The valuable part was that, once their fun part was over, they stuffed their hands into their pockets and left … so I never had to deal with them again.
So, when it comes to advice, here is my advice to you:
- Never take business advice from a failure. In business, money is one of the measures of success. If someone cannot pay his or her own bills, why on God’s green earth would you want to take that person’s advice?
- Never take advice from a successful person … unless you ask him/her for it. I know a number of people who are successful. However, keep in mind that what worked for them need not necessarily work for you
- Never take advice from family or friends … unless they are your business partners. The problem with family is that the relationship sometimes gets in the way of hard-headed business decisions. You can end up making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons. So, keep family and friends out of the decision-making loop.
- Never give advice to anyone. Unless you are an advisor and that is your job, why would you want to tell others how to start/run/fix/save their own businesses? You have better ways to spend your time, and just because you are successful at what you do, that does not necessarily make you are an expert on what others should do.
- Ask unsolicited advice givers to pony up their own funds. If their idea is so good, they should be willing to take the risk. If they have no money, see point # 1, above. This usually ends the conversation.
- Gain information and knowledge from seminars, business publications, videos, CDs, and books. These are almost always more valuable than sitting at the knee of some guru for six weeks. Read that person’s books instead. Pour tons of information into your head. And then …
- Learn to trust your own advice. Learn, study, pay attention to your business. Develop your instincts. Eventually, your sixth-sense, your intuition, your experience and common sense (whatever you want to call it, except don’t call it luck or guess work) will grow. Learn how to tap you’re your knowledge. Again, it’s not about luck. I have found that, when I have done my homework, studied my options, been patient, then made a clear-headed decision and stuck with it, it almost always worked out.
The bottom line: Work hard, make money, have fun … and remember that the best advice for you will come from you. — JRI