There were many ways that I learned things in the early days of being a business owner. Some of those sources of information were articles (such as blogs like this one), formal training, short courses and advice from other people. In fact, I was (and still am) a sponge – always keen to learn and grow and develop my expertise and knowledge. Even 30+ years on, I know there is still a lot of learning to be done.
So when it comes to attaining business advice, here are some tips:
1. Know your source
Business advice will come from a number of sources. It might be family, well-meaning mates, other business owners, your staff, advisors, professionals or your accountant. Knowing your source will be very helpful. Do they know the subject they are talking about? Do they have experience as a business owner (or perhaps corporate, which is different, but definitely similar)? How recent is their experience? Have they been out of the game for 10 years, or perhaps are very new to business or their field of expertise? I have my trusted sources; so for example with my associate/friend who is a grant writing expert tells me something about grants, I believe her. I have a long-term connection who is a finance broker, so information from that source is sure to be correct. The same goes for websites designers, lawyers, accountants etc. I have a large pool of contacts who are all great sources and I know where to seek the right answer for the right subject.
2. Filter the information
Regardless of the source, even if it’s your somewhat inexperienced mate who has never owned a business – have a listen. Even if the information seems wrong, listen, take it in and show appreciation for them taking the time to share that with you. It might be a great fresh idea, or it might be well off the track and quite wrong guidance, but listen. By listening you may even learn what not to do. If you wonder as to the virtue of the idea, and it would be important to know, then now is the time to seek guidance from another person. Ask others – not in front of that person – but privately behind the scenes.
3. Determine what’s right or wrong
Asking (or reading) business advice in a Facebook group is the same. I see group members giving legal, accounting and marketing advice and sometimes I cringe. I just hope the person reading is filtering the information. Having said that; some of the advice I’ve seen has been excellent and very sound. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions and ideally do your due diligence. You might have someone say for example super has just gone up to 12%. (It hasn’t at time of posting this). Rather than asking in a Facebook group, that is something you can look up on an official website, being the ATO website. Alternatively, ask your accountant or bookkeeper. There are good sources of information for different questions.
4. Ask questions and investigate
Above, I used the simple example of the current level of super for staff to be paid. You could look up the ATO website, but if it’s a more complicated question, you could ask your accountant or bookkeeper. If it’s how to use your Xero or MYOB there are many official help notes. There are great sources of information for different questions. Sometimes Google can be a great source, but again, information up on Google is not proven. I would put up an article that super is currently 15% and just post it. So again, this comes back to doing your due diligence, looking for consistency of information, formal and official websites or asking questions.
Questions are a great way to learn a lot and clarify information and expand your knowledge. I’m big on asking the why questions or expanding questions – “so if you do this, what happens if ….” Or “why do you believe that it’s important to ….” Essentially use your questions and investigation to learn, expand your knowledge and potentially improve your business. As someone who both coaches and trains, to me there is no such thing as a dumb question, plus no one who you work with (staff, supplier, advisor, professional) should ever be unwilling to answer a question. If they don’t answer the first time, then ask again. Perhaps your question was unclear, and if so, perhaps rephrase the question. Be persistent though and if they are not answering say via email, then pick up the phone.
5. Ditch or do the business advice
So, you’ve listened, asked questions and investigated. The concept or idea will fall into likely three categories:
- It’s wrong or irrelevant to you – so very simply ditch the concept, thought or idea. You don’t have to go back to the source and tell them they are seriously wrong unless you have a close relationship with that person and want to share (nicely) your findings so as to help them get on the right track themselves. Again, select your audience; if you know the person is argumentative, then it may just not be worth the aggravation.
- The next option is that you have found the idea accurate and relevant, but it’s not needed just now. It might be a great idea, but you just don’t have the time now to do it justice. It might be a concept, or perhaps something you don’t need to do now but will definitely need to do later or by a certain date. Make notes, store the information in a place you will find (ideally digitally on your computer) and perhaps even put a task or diary note in to revisit it at a later date.
- The information is relevant and timely and you need to act on it now. So keep all the research and notes you’ve made and plan on how you will implement it. The ‘how’ will be completely different for each and every scenario but working out the priorities, steps, the order that they will fall in and who will do and when they will do is the framework. It may be relevant to also add a budget to the planning framework. Ideally, your planning should be in writing, whether that’s a detailed Excel spreadsheet or a mud-map on a large piece of paper. Every person is different; I know I’m the spreadsheet and lists girl – but others work better to more freestyled, fluid planning method which is often pictorial. Sometimes it works to start with the pictorial, get a general mud-map and then expand with the more detailed lists and spreadsheets.
If the action that you need is something you don’t have the experience, skill, know-how or time to implement, then you might seek the guidance of an expert. If the action was setting up a new accounting structure for your business, then it’s your accountant you will be seeking assistance from. If you need a contract drawn up for your customers, then that would be a lawyer you’d need to speak to.
Perhaps you need to work on improving or growing your business, then it’s a business coach, like myself, that you should be speaking to. I work with business coaching clients Australia wide and don’t lock my clients into long term contracts. Like to know more, or have an initial free chat with me, simply call me on 0411 622 666 or reach out thru my Contact page.