Can you take advice?

With the pandemic still in full swing and employment rising, it is likely that more and more people will look to starting their own business to survive. Even in 2020 we saw some entrepreneurial ideas from people that would not accept unemployment as inevitable.

We also saw an increase in the number of women prepared to start businesses in order to ensure survival for their families. Many of these women already had skills that they practiced in their own homes but now realised that their skills had some commercial value.

Incidentally, I was enthralled by the story of the group of unassuming women that worked on the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine who were busy looking after their families when they heard the news of the success of their vaccine!

But many of the entrepreneurial offerings are obviously much more small scale and this but could still affect lives of their families when undertaken successfully.

When people are asked what they need to start a business, many will say they need money. But survey have shown that the biggest contributor to success of a start-up is access to good advice. Any small business that has at least three sessions with a good business advisor stands much more chance of surviving into their third year of business.

Unfortunately, too many start-ups think that asking for advice is a sign of weakness. Others often ask the wrong person in order to receive the answers that they want to hear. So how do you choose someone as an advisor?

I regard the best business advisors as a trusted friend. That means someone that will not always give you the answers that you want but will always work with your best interests at heart.

I always counsel against using family and friends as a trusted friend for a couple of reasons. The first is that they will be much more likely to give you the answers they think you want to hear. Remember your mother praising your acting endeavours even though you were only playing the third spear carrier in the school play?

Secondly, if you were to find a relation that was willing to tell it as it is, then the possibility of falling out is increased. I well remember telling a relation about the weakness of one of their business approaches only to cease communications for a very long time.

You also need to be careful when choosing a trusted friend from the business community. Experience in business is important, but so is knowledge of your industry segment. Most importantly, they should not have a vested interest. Be wary of the accountant that thinks all your problems are financial or the media person that thinks a business card will solve everything.

I had a perfect example of how to find a trusted friend recently when I had finished writing a book. I needed an illustrator and someone that could prepare the book for publishing. I had been in contact with someone over the last year and had recognised her knowledge and influence in this area.

Requests for potential people was dealt with immediately, and when I had difficulty tracing the people, she found contact details in minutes. The references proved ideal and, what I thought would be an arduous task, was solved in less than a day. Moreover, the person I ended up dealing with clearly had no connection with my trusted advisor as she asked who had referred her so that she could say thank you.

This blog tells you two things. Firstly, there are people out there with the knowledge and experience but no vested interest. These people just like helping others to succeed.

Secondly, even at my advanced years, I know that a trusted adviser is essential when embarking on a new venture and that one should not be afraid to ask for help.

So, I look forward to 2021 with hope for the discovery of countless more entrepreneurs with the hope that they understand that their biggest asset will be their willingness to ask for help from the right person. As someone that has done this trusted friend role countless times I can assure you that it rewards both the entrepreneur and the trusted friend to see you succeed.

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