You take 10 top businesses and it's not unlikely that nine of them are doing business differently—nine different selling processes, different organizational structures, different production procedures. And for the most part, they are all correct.
The vast majority of the businesses have evolved. They were not designed. This evolution could have come from the craft or a passion for owning a business. Most began very small and created processes and skills as the business matured and grew. In my experience, very few actually have a real business plan or a longer term exit strategy. I share these insights not to be disparaging or to hit a nerve. I share these to just create context.
Because there are more variables than constants in the business, it makes it hard to seek out the right answers and advise. There are many resources (magazines/books/podcasts/seminars, etc.) that are available but much of this advice may or may not apply to your specific business. (Should I grow or hunker down? Should I stay small or grow larger? Should I hire a sales person or not? ) The questions go on and on and the answers could be the opposite and also be right.
Advice on Business Advice
There are many consultants that can help you but in many cases you have just as much experience or success that they did. Some are very convincing but may not be the right answers for you. While my advice may not apply, I believe I can at least give you a way to think about thinking about advice in a healthy way.
Look in the mirror — Make sure you are spending some time listening to yourself. Ask yourself, "what am I really passionate about?", now "What do others say I should be passionate about as a business leader?". What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? How do you want to “feel” in 3 to 5 years (or sooner)? It is best to carve out time to reflect on these questions if you want to get the best advice for yourself.
Talk to people you trust — Everyone needs informal advisors. It could be a spouse who really knows you or an old friend. Try to have active conversations with these trusted few. Use them as a sounding board not only for what you are thinking, but also how you are thinking about it. They really need to be brutally honest (hopefully not hurtful) with their advice.
READ MORE: MEETING RIGHT: MAXIMIZING MEETING VALUE
Listen to the many voices in the business — Many have a tendency to listen to a select few in the business. These may be direct reports or people that have been with you for a long time. However, the best insights and advice can come from the unexpected people. Your delivery or trash pickup person, for instance, may touch more projects more frequently than anyone else in the company. They have real time and honest insights more than anyone else. Try to have some regular dialog with them about what they are seeing and how projects could be improved. Also, listen for the subtle comments made at the coffee machine or at the front desk. It may be a tone or a hint of sarcasm that gives you the necessary tweak you need to look at something differently.
Find another business that is most like you — Connecting with a custom builder in your area (or in another market entirely) that you can develop a relationship with is important. A relationship that you can really look behind the curtain and share deeper insights. You need to filter everything through your lens but it can give you some valuable advice. Try to put some structure to the relationship like a monthly breakfast or conference call. Try to hold each other accountable to commitments or actions.
Create an advisory board — Whether a small or large business, everyone can benefit from a small though formal advisory board. The level of formality can vary, but picking the right board members is critical. You want alignment but also diversity. You want a member or two that sees things with similar lens that you do, but also a couple that challenge your thinking. The blend of skills (i.e., representing financial or sales and marketing experience and know how) is crucial. It is also important to find the right cadence with meeting times and conversations. This is especially important as the business grows and the risks increase.
In closing, advice is important to success. The key is the right advice. The key is making getting advice an action in itself. And the key is listening to the advice.