A recent business column in USA Today had some basic advice for small business owners on whom they should listen to for business advice. The biggest problem often comes with the unsolicited advice heaped upon the business owner from friends, family, neighbors, etc.
“Most of it [i.e., unsolicited advice] is worth the price you pay for it: nothing. But many entrepreneurs have a bad habit of failing to listen to any advice, stubbornly sure of their own ideas and stuck in their ways of doing things. That’s not a recipe for long-term survival or success. There are many people who have worthwhile insights and experience that can help you grow your the business.”
The column goes on to list the 7 categories of sources of potentially useful business advice:
1. Experienced industry leaders
Despite all of the media hype about tech startups “disrupting” an industry, there still is nothing like proven experience to create meaningful impact in a business.
Many small businesses and startups (even successful ones) have difficulties in gathering and interpreting customer feedback. Often, the seeds of a new product or customer service improvement can be derived from a seemingly trivial bit of customer feedback.
“Your employees can be a rich vein of insight and advice for your company. Seek it out, listen to it carefully, and use it when you can. Obviously, not every suggestion can be implemented and some suggestions are self serving rather than aimed at helping you grow your company. But employees often know the ins and outs of some aspects of a business better than the owner.”
Entrepreneurs and business owners need to be careful in how to balance advice from investors. Clearly, investors are important and need to be listened to. However, investors may not always have the same goals as you and they may not know the operational details of your business as well as you do.
5. Professional advisers
Don’t forget the need to listen to your CFO! Lawyers (used in moderation) and other targeted professional consultants can also be useful. It’s important as a business owner or CEO to allow these professional experts the freedom to challenge and disagree with you.
6. Board and advisory members
While many small business don’t have a formal advisory board, if one exists, take advantage of it. Many startups do have formal boards which have legal rights and authority, so these boards are also very important.
7. Spouse or Significant Other
Who else can give you better advice?