The simple answer to the seemingly complex question of “Who needs a business advisor?” is … everyone responsible for operating a business. That’s right. The Fortune 50 CEO to the one-person show needs an advisor.
The CEO of a public company has mentors as well as a board of directors. They often don’t have a choice of who their advisors are, but small business owners do. Unfortunately, with this choice of advisors comes another option that is not to get any help at all.
Not getting any help at all is very often the cause of business failure. The small business owner will usually think there’s not enough time or money for an advisor. Think about that comment.
How can you not have the money to get help from someone that can potentially save or make you more money since you are not getting it done on your own? Or how about that time you are lacking? Maybe if that owner sat down for an hour with an advisor, they would be able to see why they don’t have time and do something about it with the help of someone who has already been in those shoes.
A coach or advisor gives to small business owners something most of them don’t have; a sounding board and a board of directors to turn to for advice. These are two great resources to use when trying to avoid “trial and error” decisions and processes.
I’m not knocking trial and error as the way to learn things. I’ve personally used that method and fared well in many cases. But that is a case-by-case basis, not for on-going daily concerns. Don’t forget that this method is also very costly and time-consuming. Why not ask someone who has probably already faced the problem?
What many business owners do not realize is that they rarely go through many trials and tribulations that someone else has never dealt with and 70-75% of their business is the same as every other business including HR, finances, sales, marketing, and funding. The other 25-30% is industry specific.
Small to mid-sized business owners take away much more from an advisor than big businesses. Because the owners wear a lot of hats, many of those hats take time away from the things the owner needs to make a priority to see their company succeed.
These are the things they should be doing and don’t have the time or things they are taking care of and have no experience. These situations take away from them doing what they do best. That’s a problem.
The question now is how to find an advisor. There are many types of business advisors out there. Some are pure “coaches,” and others are true developers and implementers that will roll up their sleeves with you when asked. It’s up to you to pick the type of person you want or need. Here are a few things to think about:
– Do they click with your personality? There are many good advisors out there but if they don’t click with you as a “business friend,” don’t bother with them because you will end up fighting them even when you agree on the advice.
– Have they owned a small business before? Gray hair does not equal business ownership knowledge. I promise you that the ex-CEO or Senior manager from a large company knows very little about successfully operating a small business. These are two significantly different worlds.
– Don’t worry if a potential advisor doesn’t know your specific industry. Remember that a lot of your troubles have nothing to do with your industry. It would help if the advisor had contacts/resources in your industry for you when specific problems arise.
– Look for flexibility. A potential advisor that pushes for more than 20 hours a month of your time from day one is probably out for money. Until they start working with you, there is no way of knowing that they need that much time per month to meet your goals and timelines. A good advisor will understand that you have committed to getting back on track just by the fact that you are talking to them. They shouldn’t need to try and get a ridiculous time/money commitment from you if they want to help.
– Make it a local thing. This suggestion is a two-part issue. First, the advisor would agree that when you need face time that they come to you. Second, there is entirely no reason why a small business with locations in one state needs a business advisor that must fly in or travel more than 2 hours to see them. These companies somehow find suckers to take their common advice and huge reports full of fluff and pay for travel costs. There are plenty of advisors local to every company in this country. Yes, even in Hawaii.
Once you made the well-informed decision of getting help in making your business a success, keep a few things in mind. You should commit to working with your advisor for a good six months. Nothing gets fixed overnight. Also, since you are paying for it, please do yourself a favor and be open to suggestions, bring important things to your advisor for help in deciding and make the use of your time with the advisor a priority. Don’t forget that an advisor or coach should never choose for you. It’s your company; they are there to make suggestions and guide you.
Working with an advisor can be a very enlightening experience. You will start to see the forest from the trees and not feel like you are the only person on the planet going through tough times as a business owner.
All business owners eventually need help. The successful ones put aside their pride and desire to be at the center of all aspects of the company and get the help. Do yourself and your company a favor and be one of the truly successful business owners. Get an advisor and get all you can out of them. If your advisor loves what he/she does for a living as such as you love what you do, you can’t go wrong.