Other people’s advice can be dangerous

Can you get advice from the internet? The internet is great. Need some information – the great Google is at hand to provide thousands of articles published by well meaning ‘experts’. But can you trust what you read?
Wikipedia is another great resource, but it’s not validated. It relies on the general reader to correct any mistakes. It’s edited by its own users. There is no wealth of background research to back up it’s articles. Many of the people that posted entries may have done that research but you can’t tell. You take it on trust.

Friends and family
So when you need advice about your business – about a tricky decision you have to make – where do you turn? Many business owners turn to family and friends – the people that know and love them best. But is that wise? How many of them run their own business? Have they ever faced a similar situation to you. Are they applying ‘big corporate’ logic to your problem because that’s where they work? Are they being well meaning without understanding? Can you trust other people’s advice?
Most advice is given from the perspective of the giver. If the giver has never run a business, their perspective may not be valid in your situation. My sister-in-law was talking about what my son should do in relation to a situation he found himself in at work. He works for a small IT support company. She was talking from the perspective of having worked in the NHS. The advice, though well intentioned, just wasn’t relevant.
Similarly advice from friends who work in large corporates should be taken with a health warning. I have certainly learned a lot from my large corporate roles and assignments that I have adapted and applied to running my own business. But the key was the adaption. The experience had to be adapted and applied in a relevant way. If you can do that adaption, the advice could be useful. But if you are in the midst of a crisis or critical decision, now might not be the time to try it.

Professional advisers
You’d think this would be a good place to go for advice. If you have chosen the advisors well, then you could well be right. But you often choose your professional adviser more like a supplier. Can they deliver the service I want at price I can afford. I need my accounts, tax and payroll sorted. So you select the accountant that offers the best value for money service. Few business owners chose their accountants on the wider advice and guidance they can offer. When starting out you want to be compliant as cheap as possible. The more enlightened accountants will be highlighting their value added services, but many start up business owners will feel they are being sold unnecessary services.
I know one property investor whose accountant discouraged him from the strategy he was proposing to follow because he thought it was too ambitious. The accountant was not a property investor and had no experience of managing the accounts of property investors. The investor wisely changed accountant.
Another accountant discouraged a client from signing up a coach because the effective hourly rate for the coach was more than his client earned per hour. He should have been looking at the benefits the coaching would deliver for his client which far exceeded the total cost of the coaching programme with a payback of less than six months and a guarantee of free ongoing coaching until full payback was achieved. What’s more, the coaching would enable the return to be repeated continuously at no extra cost making the return on investment ever increasing.
So taking advice from advisers can be good, but only if you have selected the adviser for that purpose and they have relevant experience.

Networking groups
Networking is an important part of developing and growing your business. It can help you find clients and suppliers and provide a reassuring environment. Many new and established business owners can find it a lonley occupation. Even if you employ staff, you are the business owner and it can feel like a lonely place. Networking can provide interaction with like-minded business owners facing similar situations.

But be wary of turning to a networking group for advice. If you know the members well and know they have faced similar situations and dealt with them successfully, you may get good advice. But many people attend networking events just to catch up with contacts or to try and find clients. The aim is not specifically to help each other grow and develop their businesses so you may not get the advice you need.

Who you hang around with matters…
…a lot. There is a train of thought that says you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. In business terms, that is why many successful business people join mastermind groups or business clubs with like-minded business owners and lead by experienced, knowledgeable and successful entrepreneurs. They surround themselves with successful people that want to become more successful. Such mastermind groups or larger business development groups or clubs are there to help people develop and grow their businesses. Yes, networking takes place, but that is very much the secondary objective.

So when they need advice, they have a ready made pool of people to turn to that have faced similar situations themselves, or know someone that has. Successful entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes. Really successful entrepreneurs learn from other people’s. Grow your network of successful business owners and with it your pool of helpful, useful advisers.

Coaching and mentoring
The other source of excellent advice is to find a coach or mentor. Someone who is focussed on supporting you in achieving your business goals and has the relevant background, experience and network of contacts to help you on your journey.

Who do you turn to for advice and guidance? What experiences have you had of good and bad advice. Leave a comment below and share your experiences.