Who should you ask for business advice? Separating fact from fiction

Since starting my own business I’ve been to dozens of business events, watched the videos, listened to the podcasts and I’ve read all the important books from thought leaders, experts and gurus.

I remember vividly my Step-Dad Stuart warning me that I was turning into the people I was following, and to watch that I don’t just turn into a regurgitated version of them. My Dad followed up with this advice and told me to ‘be a student, not a follower’.

It took a while for this advice to sink in, and it’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

That’s what Vicky shares in this guest article – her valuable advice on how to filter out the bullshit from business advice and make sure you are listening to the right people.

Whether you are just starting in business, or you’ve been in the game for a while, the next few minutes you spend reading this will be time well spent.

Take the time to think about who you are listening to, and if they are truly the right people for you.

I’m looking forward to your thoughts in the comments section at the end.

DFTBA!

Chris.


From your great aunt to your local IT guy, everyone is ready to give you business advice…

…and whether you want it or not, you can’t open social media or your email without a barrage of “here’s how I can make you successful”.

In my previous roles and in the three years I’ve run Millie’s Beach Huts, I have at times pro-actively sought advice. I’ve used coaches, joined communities, attended workshops and conferences. I’ve even hired business consultants.

I believe there is value and expertise that you can glean from others. It can help you on a personal basis and help grow your business too.

But in an era of the wannabe “influencer”, how do you separate fact from fiction?  Who should you seek business advice from?

After thinking long and hard about this, I’ve picked out 5 ways to help you filter out the noise so you don’t get distracted and led astray by the wrong advice.

#1 Are they an expert? Theory versus Practice

You know that person, right? The one who’s read an article or a book and is now suddenly an expert on the subject.

The thing is, there is value to be gleaned from books, courses and blogs. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I said there wasn’t while you are reading one? But no, I personally love a good book and turn to a few favourites when I’m seeking inspiration myself.

But there is a real danger of taking advice from someone who is basing all their knowledge on theory. First and foremost, they may have translated advice from reading or doing a course in a different way to the way you would have.

Unless they have caveated the advice with “I read this book by John Smith and it suggested that you do this”, then please do be careful before you jump in and implement their advice.

But how do you tell?  Well, you could just ask them a few questions.

Ask them to show you examples of what they are referring to or how they think that advice has impacted their own business or life. Just the one question “what did you do in the same situation?” will help.

You’ll soon cut through the crap and work out if they’ve tested out the ‘expert advice’ they are giving. If they haven’t, skip past them and go straight to the expert. Do you really need that middleman or woman?

#2 Watch out for the quiet ones

Some of the loudest, brash people can give you the worst advice.

It’s worth considering why they are the loudest and why they are trying to persuade you to take a certain path.

Are they really invested in your success or is there another motive? Will they benefit financially or even just for their own personal gain? Are you confident that this isn’t having an influence over the advice they are giving you?

I’m not saying that every loud person gives bad advice, but I can’t help but reflect that I’ve found the best advice has come from those who aren’t shouting about their success from the rooftops. Those ‘quiet’ ones are the ones working away, building up their business day by day and focusing on themselves and their customers.

I’ve frequently turned to content from people such as Julie Christie (Tea Break Togs and Togs In Business), Colin Gray (The Podcast Host) and Pete Matthew (Meaningful Money).

Why? Well they might not be shouting it from the rooftop but they are producing high-quality content, more than consistently (seriously, have you seen the amount of content coming out from The Podcast Host?) and are running successful businesses.

Take a bit of time to find out who the ‘quieter’ successful experts are. Ask colleagues, friends and business owners who they know that are doing great things in the area that you are looking for advice in.

You may find some names that haven’t jumped out at you beforehand. I promise it’s worth your time doing so.

#3 Can they show you evidence of consistent success?

Married for 20 years but taking relationship advice from an 18-year-old who’s never been in a relationship?

Seeking help from someone on how to plan but find they are always double booked, running late or generally disorganised?

No, I didn’t think you would. So why would you go ‘all-in’ on getting business advice from someone who hasn’t shown consistent success in business?

There is one school of thought that we should always be learning from those who are just one step ahead of us. But for me, I find this is most helpful when the advice I’m seeking is very specific and has tended to be task base. For e.g., when I’ve been struggling with a technical issue and I can’t see the woods for the trees.

When looking to increase my learning at a steep rate or think more strategically on one subject, it’s those that are world class over a longer period of time that I turn to.

However, don’t be afraid to ask ‘unconventional successful people’ for advice too. The ones who have become successful against the odds. If they’ve not had inherent advantages and achieved success in a short time it likely that they will have quick and easy tips that you can use and adapt no matter what stage of business you are at.

#4 AND, can they back it up with stats?

At a Content Marketing Academy (CMA) workshop recently, I shared my own content marketing journey.

Along with some of the softer wins that have come from my content, like press and awards, I shared several key metrics that have improved since I started producing content. Metrics such as bounce rate, page views and sales.

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Why?  Well, whether I’d written 1 or 200 blogs, the group of people in front of me would have every right to say: So What? What difference will it make to my own business?

So, when you are receiving advice, take a moment to ask the metrics and outcomes that the individual has had by implementing that advice.

Don’t be afraid to dig down and ask about nitty, gritty numbers. Anyone who is worth their salt should easily be able to provide advice based on their own observation, testing, reflection as well as trends in activity and past performance.

Be sure to check that the improvements they talk about do relate to the change in the metrics they share too. You know the good old analogy of comparing apples with apples. It is important!

If you are going to spend time, energy and potentially money on implementing advice, you want to know what success will come out of it and/or compare it with other ideas and suggestions.

#5 Have they experienced failure?

Whether you are just starting out or have been running your business for some time, you’ll know it isn’t easy. There will be bumps in the road.

Some people may think of asking advice from those who have experienced failure as an absolute no-no. However, have you thought about the wealth of knowledge they now have. From how to deal with it to the all-important question “could it have been avoided” or “if you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?”

There are two important considerations when taking or seeking advice from someone who has experienced failure:

  • Have they admitted that they made a mistake? We can truly only learn from those experiences when we do.
  • Are they now able to focus on the positive aspects of that experience? Taking and seeking advice from someone who is still living with the ‘pain’ of failure may not be the best timing.

Finding your own path

I think we’ve established that everyone is an expert. But based on my experience working in business and running my own business, a permanent ‘filter’ needs to switched on when seeking your business advice.

I’m not saying that this gives you a valid reason to ignore advice your being given or to not trust anyone. However, I am saying that you need to find your own path.

Yes, give the appropriate recognition and appreciation to those who have been successful. But stop spending all your time ‘worshipping’ every word they say. Is your focus on their success or what’s right for you?

Yes, seek out the experts in finance, marketing, sales, SEO, IT, HR, etc. But don’t try to be them. They are experts in that field for a reason. You are first and foremost a business owner and if spend too much time in that area, well the rest of your business will suffer. You will drive yourself slowly mad trying to be world class in that one area.

Yes, be a sponge and take it all in. If you are someone who gets easily swayed by different ideas and opinions be careful not to derail yourself.

And yes, where appropriate, pay for that advice. If you’ve taken my advice above, there is a very high likelihood that unless you’ve developed a mentoring relationship or you have those people already in your circle of friends, you will need to pay for their expertise.

BUT it’s going to be a LOT of fun

The bottom line is, you are ultimately responsible for your business.

But with a few simple questions, you are going to have the most amazing time learning from those who can offer expertise. When you find the right people to give you advice, it will be worth its weight in gold.  Enjoy it!

Your turn

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic too.

  • Do you often turn to others for business advice? How do you know who to ask and when?
  • If you’ve received business advice, have you implemented it with success?

Please share your experiences below and feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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About Vicky Gunn

photo of vicky gunn author of guest blog

Vicky is the owner and founder of Millie’s Beach Huts, a beach hut hire company who also provides styling and management services for other beach hut owners.

As a qualified accountant and having worked at director level, Vicky’s background is in strategic finance in both the private and public sector.

Having embarked upon her content marketing journey in 2016, she has used this to help expand her ‘side’ hustle into a full-time business.

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