Want good business advice? Don’t look in the mirror

80120533 Everyone is looking for insight.  How do we generate more traffic into our store (or website)?  How can we upsell clients?  Should we raise our prices?

If you're a small business owner, you're probably facing these kinds of questions every day.  And in  most cases, you're sorting through it all on your own.  That's a problem.

No one is less objective about your business than you are.  No one has more of an emotional investment that you do.  No one has more on the line than you.  So — no one is less objective than you.  Which leads to some pretty dangerous decision-making.

So how can you balance your lack of objectivity? 

  • Create an advisory board (often made up of your professional advisors….attorney, accountant, etc.) that will meet with you monthly/quarterly to provide some balance
  • Join an accountability/mastermind group to not only give you a place to vet your ideas but also a safe place to do some brainstorming
  • Put together a customer-based advisory group to give you some balance
  • Join a professional organization that will put you together with other business owners in different parts of the world.  You can learn best practices from each other…and not worry about competing

The message here — don't go it alone.  I know what you're thinking.  You are the one in a million business owner who can in fact, be objective.  Don't fool yourself.  That's like asking someone who's had 10 shots if they're okay to drive.  They may think they're okay….but you'd better get a designated driver.

Be sure you've got some smart and loyal designated drivers at your side as you begin to make decisions for '09 and beyond.

Okay….I'll share if you will.  Have you ever tried any of the suggestions above?  Which worked best for you?

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17 comments on “Want good business advice? Don’t look in the mirror

  1. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    Monthly – well, almost monthly – meetings with my pro-active accountant cum business advisor. Always looking forward to those! He has this knack of challenging me to do even better/more/efficient next month. Also some great marketing projects came from these sessions. And sometimes he even lends a shoulder to cry on 😉

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  2. John Gillett says:

    It’s tough to get truly objective advice from anyone, but having an advisor or a group to bounce your ideas around is excellent advice…I’ve often found that by floating an idea to a third party opens the door to honest criticism, which can make the difference between a successful initiative and a half-baked plan.

  3. Well, I think there *is* one completely unbiased source of information, and that’s the market itself. Testing small and doing effective market research will often spare you from painful mistakes and help you react more quickly when you’ve got a winner.

    Of course, seeking help, advice, and networking from people who are removed from your business is important. I like to have a combination of quantitative and qualitative resources to act as a “check” against my natural biases.

  4. James Hipkin says:

    Every time I’m writing an important document I have friends and colleagues read it. They always see the rough spots, the areas where I could be more clear or that are plain confusing better than I can. It never fails. Try it and your writing and presentations will be better.

  5. Susan Martin says:

    An obvious choice is working with a business coach, someone who provides that objective viewpoint, can play devils advocate and supply the guidance, support and accountability we all need to achieve our goals.

  6. Karin,

    And does your accountant/business advisor help you will all aspects of your business or just the financial aspects?


  7. John,

    I belong to a group of other agency owners and we serve as each other’s sounding board and advisors. They have saved me from many a mistake and they’ve made many medicore ideas much better.

    How do you guys build advisors for your business?


  8. Katie,

    An excellent point — balancing the qualitative with some quantitative data is very smart tactic.

    Many small businesses shy away from research because of the cost…but the cost of not doing it is often much higher.


  9. James,

    I completely agree. Fresh eyes always make it better. And I think, in the long run, make us better writers. I learn and adapt based on every critique.


  10. Susan,

    I’ve worked with a business coach for years. It makes me a much better business owner, leader and boss.

    So you’ll get no argument from me. They’re invaluable.


  11. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    He’s my ‘star’ copy-writer sometimes 😉
    Yes, from finance to marketing to systems to procedures – he’s been a member of ‘our team’ since start-up and will cover all aspects of being in business and then some.

    Karin H.

  12. Karin,

    Wow…he’s a keeper! You should rent him out! ;-}


  13. Karin H. says:


    A) I won’t tell him what you wrote
    B) very selfishly I will keep him for ourselves

    Karin H

  14. Judy Murdoch says:

    I had a strong reaction reading this post.

    On the one hand, yes, input from a small group of trusted advisers can be quite helpful. Especially if it’s about an area you don’t have much expertise in.

    But ultimately, it’s my business and I have done some really stupid things because I followed the advice of a well-intentioned mastermind buddy or adviser instead of listening to my own heart and intuition.

    So, yes, outside input is great but I still consider my heart and intuition to the ultimate arbitrator.


  15. Sarah Nelson says:


    At our dental practice we have created a Patient Relationship Team that meets bi weekly to check in on what goes on during day to day operations. The PRM member serve as listening posts for patient feedback and then report to a larger group. we use the information to create awareness action items for the next two weeks

  16. Other business owners and customers do have valuable feedback for small business decision makers. So do employees, resource partners, vendors and others. Taking all these perspectives into account helps small business owners gain the focus they need to make balanced, on-target decisions.

  17. Judy,

    Ultimately — it is your business and you have to make the final call. No disagreement from me on that. When the gut says no — it should be no.

    But…business people cannot be objective about their own business. So they have to get perspective from somewhere outside of themselves.


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