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When you run a business, everyone offers advice. It seems to come whether or not you ask for it.
Friends, relatives, acquaintances--all of them feel compelled to tell you how to run your business, how to tackle problems, how to improve.
Unsolicited advice is usually so much background noise. Listen to all of it, however, and discard most of it.
Example: Ana runs a frame shop. Most of her clients are companies, professional offices, galleries, artists and individuals. A big order came from a new clinic, and Ana scrambled to meet the deadline for the grand opening. When they didn't pay the sizable bill for several months, Ana mentioned the problem to a lawyer friend. He suggested sending the clinic a collection letter. Ana thought that too strong--it might jeopardize future business. Instead, she simply visited the clinic, engaged the administrator in a friendly conversation about future assignments. When she mentioned that the old bill had not been paid, she got immediate action. Today, she does continuing work for the clinic.
Relationships with your customers are important. Two martini lunches might have their place, but a friendly conversation with a client can be much more meaningful. Letters from lawyers can put a wall between you and your client.
Example: Ellen is an artist who makes jewelry. She has a website and sells to a growing list of repeat customers. When a friend asked Ellen why she could not find Ellen's jewelry on Facebook, she considered the idea. Today, Ellen posts pictures regularly on Facebook and has a wider circle of repeat customers.
Good ideas can come at you from any direction. While many suggestions don't quite hit the nail on the head, some can. Always listen and evaluate, and, if it makes sense, act accordingly.
To evaluate advice, test it against the marketplace. That's your first line of defense. If it seems to work in the marketplace, it's worth a try.