The Opportunities in Advice

Inc. Magazine has a monthly feature that provides insight or recommendations from a number of entrepreneurs to one business.  It is interesting to see the different opinions or solutions given on issues like marketing, staffing, operations and more.  Its even more interesting to me how people sometimes give suggestions based on something they don’t really have a strong grasp of (because it’s not their field) or give suggestions that derive completely from their field (that may or may not be relevant to the business in question) and give it a twist that enables it to work for the recipient of the well-meaning advice.

Of course, the recipient has to take everything with a grain of salt and ensure that it actually works or is relevant to them.  And, it’s always good to get insight and ideas from disparate sources if you have the opportunity.  But, it is reminiscent of when a parent gives advice to their grown child who is in a profession they do not know – making suggestions that are irrelevant to the challenges at hand.  Don’t get me wrong…  Without parent’s guidance, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are.  But the cringing that occurs make it that much more important that when we give advice, we owe it to ourselves and others to try to find out more about the recipient’s specific concerns before espousing our good will.

I would not presume to know all the factors that go into Inc.’s process for this feature – I have no idea what was edited to work within the confines of a column – so take this with a grain of salt as I am looking to make a point.  In the case of How Would You Market Art For Rent, there were a number of marketing recommendations to a young company that rents art by the month for $50.  Some seemed to have decent kernels of ideas that needed to be more fully fleshed out.  One seemed like a rote response about the need for gathering email addresses of  site visitors without expressing any ideas for what should be done beyond the act of building their CRM. And, in the case of an interior designer’s suggestion, they made a solid suggestion as it relates to their own market by way of building relationships with interior designers ( I would also expand their suggestion to include realtors who are always staging homes for sale for short periods of time…)

Regardless of whether the business idea is a sound one or whether any of the suggestions were worthwhile in the end – the point is that when providing advice or asking for guidance from others, we should expect of ourselves and others to spend at least a little time figuring out what the business or industry is and what is relevant.  It does nobody any good to just make a basic statement to “increase your social media penetration,” or “make sure you advertise,” or “set up a Facebook page.”  If this is all you are getting from compensated advisors, then you are either dealing with someone who doesn’t have the time or ability to do research and give it some real thought or you’re not asking the right questions or providing the proper access to information.

The key is in taking available information and suggestions and making it work for the business.  Honor your own business or those who call upon your advice to give it reasonable thought and consideration.  Don’t settle for basic or scripted responses as either the giver or receiver as it effectively wastes time and stunts growth.

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