Thursday, May 24, 2012

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know About Seeking Advice

entrepreneurhip advice
Remember the Gatorade "be like Mike"campaign from back in the day? For those of you too young to remember, take a look at the YouTube link. It features a bunch of kids who want to be like Michael Jordan, trying to imitate his moves on playgrounds across America. So what does this have to do with being an entrepreneur? Everything.

Some entrepreneurs, especially beginning entrepreneurs, have the bad habit of seeking advice and approval from the wrong people. As I always say, if you want to "be like Mike", don't ask "Uncle Joey". If you want to be successful at this game of entrepreneurship, do not seek advice from those who have no interest in entrepreneurship or who do not run a business. The only exception to this rule is the advice of  specialists on a specific aspect of your business, such as finances. In this case, be certain the person is an expert in their field and limit the discussion to their field of expertise.

Other than these specialists, from whom else should you seek advice?

Other Entrepreneurs

This is an obvious choice. If possible, seek out entrepreneurs of a similar niche. National trade groups and associations are a great place to start. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are great resources for seeking out advice from those in your same niche but not necessarily in your local area. In your local area seek out mentorships with other successful entrepreneurs. In my local area I get excellent advice from my mentor who owns a very successful mortgage company. He has been an entrepreneur far longer than myself, and has annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars. His advice is far more valuable than that of "Uncle Joey".

Your Customers

Your customers will tell you exactly how to win their business if you listen to them. Those in your target market are very similar, which is why they are called a target market. What pleases one of them will likely please most of them. Therefore, it is advisable to seek their advice on your products and services. This does not mean you should take all of their advice. Remember, you are an innovator, and part of your job is to illustrate how you can improve their lives with new products and services. Which means offering products and services they never realized they needed before you introduced it. Did someone say iPad? 

Your Inner Voice

I talk about this quite a bit in my book on entrepreneurship. Great entrepreneurs learn how to trust that inner voice-the"gut". When we allow doubt to cloud our minds and we ignore our inner voice, we go seeking advice and approval from the wrong people. As an everyday entrepreneur you must learn to listen to and trust your gut. This does not mean you will get it right 100% of the time. But your gut will guide you far better than the uninformed opinion of a non-entrepreneur.

What About Your Significant Other?

I absolutely love my wife. So much so that I penned a beautiful dedication to her in my book. There are three moments in my life where I was absolutely certain of my decision and never ever second guessed or looked back. One of those moments was when I decided to marry my wife. When did I decide to marry her? On our first date. On our way back from our date I asked if I could see her again. She told me that would be fine but made it clear that she was not looking for a relationship. I remember thinking to myself at that very moment, I'm going to marry this woman. We were married a year later. Sometimes you just know.

I mention this to make an important point. As an entrepreneur having the support of your significant other is essential to your success. This is especially true if you are married. However, support is quite different from approval or advice. As much as I love my wife, she is an extremely cautious person. Her cautious nature keeps me balanced and grounded to a degree. But knowing how cautious she can be, I do not take all of her advice with regards to entrepreneurship. As entrepreneurs we should always listen and address any concerns of our significant others. But because entrepreneurs think differently than most people, sometimes we just have to go with our gut. Even when the ones we love do not fully understand. Fortunately for me, my wife has always supported me, even when she did not totally agree with my direction.

If you are as lucky as me and have a supportive spouse who has always been there for you through the ups and downs, retweet this article. Then, go home, give them a big kiss and tell them how much you love them.

Godspeed and I look forward to see you in The Players Lounge.


  1. Derrick, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog I was intereted to see your blog from the description. Interesting that the first article I read you mention your wife's contributions to decisions.

    I agree that they are important and that one needs to take them into account. Like you, I may not take them all. But I can think of at least 3 examples where having not listened would have resulted in dramatic changes in my path. In fact, I am certain that I would not have ever run a company had I not listened shortly after being married.

    Keep up the great advice. The world needs great leaders to help improve the economic environment. Startups and Entrepreneurs can do their part for sure.

  2. Great comments Taffy. I remember several years ago I wanted to throw in the towel and the two most important women in my life, my wife and mother, talked me out of it. I am so glad I listened to them. Like you, had I not listened I would not be in business right now.