Good Advice vs Cheap Advice
What are your dealbreakers when looking for advice?
How do you weigh up your options?
A lot of people answer this question with a short term mindset – they go for whichever source of advice is the cheapest.
Cheap is an interesting term, there’s cheap in the short term and cheap in the long term.
You can save money by not servicing your car, by avoiding the dentist or skipping travel insurance.
Long term though, the costs catch up to you.
A $10,000 car might last you three years, whereas a $20,000 car will last for eight.
Or in the words of Terry Pratchett:
“A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”
As they say, you can buy nice…or buy twice.
A lot of entrepreneurs choose to take whichever source of advice comes for free.
That’s both completely understandable, and also a strange decision.
When you’re in a scarcity mindset, you’re on the lookout for cost savings.
However, it seems odd to only weigh up the costs of different options without weighing up the benefits.
What do you get for your money?
From where I stand, there are three main benefits an advisor or program can give you.
1. They can increase your sales.
Some problems can’t be solved through brute force, especially when it comes to starting a new enterprise.
They say efficiency is doing things right, and effectiveness is doing the right things.
A good advisor makes you more effective.
You might have a fantastic cause, but are trying to sell to the wrong customer.
Maybe you’re not speaking their language, aren’t charging enough, or are missing a golden opportunity in a slightly different market.
A good advisor can highlight lucrative opportunities, and save you a lot of wasted time and energy.
2. They can help you build a good culture.
So many talented entrepreneurs can’t build a team.
Maybe they are unwilling to delegate.
Maybe they can’t find good people to hire.
Maybe they have the right people in the wrong roles.
Maybe they need to fire the wrong people.
Maybe they can’t communicate their vision.
Building a good culture is one of the most cost effective things you can do.
With a good culture, you can become “an employer of choice”.
That means a bigger pool of applicants, higher retention, and you never have to pay above market rates.
Turnover will be low, so you don’t waste resources training new people.
Happy staff doing more work, and their attitudes bring in more customers.
That means more sales and more financial security.
3. They can spot hidden threats and opportunities.
Good advisors read between the lines and spot the broader trends that are about to affect your business.
They can introduce you to valuable partners that you’d never have otherwise encountered.
They highlight weaknesses that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.
They recommend your company to everyone they meet.
They ask you tricky questions that stay in your head for days.
They become trusted people that you can turn to in tough times.
If it were me, here’s what I would be hunting for:
1. Someone who understands my business.
If they don’t “get it” then all other conversations will be full of well-intentioned misunderstandings
2. Someone I like.
If I don’t like them, every bit of constructive criticism will frustrate me and I’ll dread each meeting.
3. Someone with skills I don’t have.
That will ensure they cover my blind spots and make improvements I couldn’t do on my own.
I’d be looking for someone who can grow my business, because if they get it right, the rewards are staggering.
Why would I spend my time with someone just because they’re free?
As they say, if you use something and don’t pay – you’re not the customer, you’re the product.
(A lot of Facebook users are learning this lesson right now)
If I can get someone great and they’re free or cheap, even better.
Some great advisors do pro-bono work, or you might get a scholarship to a top program.
But free shouldn’t be the reason you trust someone with your business.
Too much is at stake.