The real answer is usually “it depends.”
I’m only 50% right. What do I mean? What I know is based largely on what I’ve either experienced as a business entrepreneur or read about in life. I’ve made some good moves and some bad moves. I highly doubt that I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong.
Ok, what is the point of all of this? Keep this in mind as you look to create a startup company or become a business entrepreneur.
Beware of advice givers who are positive that they are right. They can only answer based on their experiences. In some cases, it is even worse than this- their whole business is one that tells people how to build a business and they’ve never actually created a start company. The internet is full of people giving advice who have never done anything tangible- but this is a topic for another blog.
How do you get the “Right” answer?
You can and should try to learn from everyone you meet. We all have ideas and thoughts to contribute to society. The problem is that there is never one answer that fits for everyone. Usually, the correct answer is “it depends.”
Let’s use college as an example. When I grew up (I’m 47 now), it was common knowledge that you can’t be a success if you don’t go to college. Economists trotted out tons of stats that backed up the earning potential of college grads compared to those unfortunate ones who couldn’t go. Looking back, these studies never talked about the samples used in each group. I went to the University of Iowa and have done OK for myself. I also have many friends who never finished college and have been more successful than I have been.
The value proposition for college has been questioned a lot lately. I’ve read many articles that state that you’re an idiot if you spend the next 4 years (or more) of your life in college. The authors of these articles are no more right than the people on the other end when I was a kid.
The real answer is -it depends. Do you want to be a doctor? You’d better go to college. Is your goal to own a bunch of restaurants? Are you going to have to borrow and put yourself in debt? Maybe you should consider saying “no” before you sign those loan documents. Maybe you want to be a barista at Starbucks and your parents are paying for your college? You just want to drink beer and have fun for 4 years. This may be the right decision for you. No one else can make that call and frankly, it is none of their business — including your parents. I’m positive that half the time kids get pushed towards to college by their parents because the folks don’t want to feel like losers when asked about their kids.
I could go on and give both sides for home ownership, dividend versus growth stocks, and the use of debt in growing a business. In fact, we could figure out where “it depends” for almost anything in life.
How does this help you as the next business entrepreneur?
There are a few key points I’d like you to consider when receiving advice (whether you asked for it or not).
- What does your gut say? Does the advice run contrary to your core beliefs? Does it make sense to you? If not, you’d better either pass or dig MUCH DEEPER if you are considering following the advice.
- Have these people speaking from experience? What is the advice-givers background? Has she been successful? Beware of the person who talks but doesn’t back it up with their own money. And, beware of the person who’s only credentials are that they talk about it. The Internet is being overrun with them.
- Did they have a similar financial outlook at the time? I love it when someone who is wealthy and can pay cash for a house is advising someone new to the workforce that they should buy a house. Did they ask if you are set in your career? Do you want live in Town X for the next 10 years? Can you pay for the house or are you putting 5% down and financing it for 30 years? Some decisions are much easier for some than others. The stakes may not be that high if the advice giver is wrong, but may be fatal to you. Make sure you consider their financial view when listening to what they have to say.
- What will they get out of it? Financial advisors are famous for violating this one. Are they getting paid if you follow their advice? Most financial advisors are good people but they can’t help being influenced by their own pocketbook. That doesn’t mean their advice is wrong, but you need to consider why they are giving the advice.
- How painful will it be to not listen to them? Remember the “you may be right, but can you afford to be?” There are times when you just have to choke it down. This may not be the advice that you want to take and it may violate points 1-4 above but you have to listen because it will adversely affect you elsewhere if you don’t. Suck it up. Plug your nose and move on. Take steps to not be in this situation again.
- What is the opposite argument? It is always helpful to try and play “devil’s advocate” with yourself. What is the opposite approach? Remember, the real answer is usually “it depends.”
Ultimately, you are responsible for your business. No one is going to cover your losses if you fail. I’m not writing this to make you indecisive. Small business entrepreneurs need to be decisive and commit to their decisions if they want a successful business. My goal is that this article will remind you to not blindly accept anything that you hear from others. Instead, ask yourself the questions above and say “Does this make sense for me”?
I tell this to my kids. Hopefully Jake will read this and want to publish this startup blog post. It is up to him whether this fits for ProblemSolutionHQ.
That’s it until next time. I’m here at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need me.