Thursday, January 1, 2015

Talking heads

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     You get lots of advice when you run a small business. You don't have to ask for it. Your neighbors, friends, even your golf partners feel compelled to advise you on business matters.

     It doesn't seem to bother these people that they have never actually operated a business. They are suddenly anxious to share their thoughts.

     Example: When I was starting a business many years ago, an accountant friend advised me to wait. It was the 1970s and the national economy was pretty bad. "Wait a few years, until the economy turns around," he advised. I ignored his advice, and established a business that was to last more than 25 years. Eventually, he became the company's accountant, and we had some laughs remembering the advice he gave me. 

     Don't misunderstand this example. His advice was sound insofar as it went. It represented an approach that he would have taken. The thing that was missing was my determination, my mindset, and my seeing a market opportunity that was just opening up. 

     Always listen to advice, no matter who offers it. Sometimes there is a nugget of insight that you might have missed. And always, there is a different point of view that might trigger a valuable new thought. Then, and only then, do you discard the advice. 

     A good idea is where you find it. Sometimes in the past, as the talking head was going on about what I should be doing, a completely different approach popped into my mind. Had I not listened to the fluff being offered as advice, I might never have had the valuable new thought. 

     I've used these types of conversations to inject a leading question or two. I wasn't looking for the person's explanation, but, rather, I was looking for an idea with a fresh face. Sometimes, this can work.

     Example: Bill advised Mary to close her small gift store because her income barely matched her expenses. "How do you see the community changing?" she asked him. "New people are coming in," he said. "They work at different jobs, they have different ideas about decorating," Bill told her. And that was when she saw clearly how she could transform her gift shop into an upscale operation, offering one-of-a-kind works of artists and artisans. This new crowd was changing the face of the town, and Mary in a flash took her dream to the next level.

     Always listen politely to the talking heads who offer advice. You might be able to uncover the gem of an idea in what they say. Or it might trigger a different thought of your own. 

     However, when you go looking for good advice on the operation of your business, look to someone who has been there, done that. It might work, it might not. But at least you know it comes from the fires of experience.

     Talking heads are everywhere. Some are a waste of time, others can prove valuable. And some might lead you to think about your business in a completely different way.  


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