Recently, on behalf of a couple of new business owners I had met, I reached out to a past client because I thought they could provide some insight to and even connections for these new individuals. This week, I got an email back from the past client in which they made a statement which I think is very apropos to the content of my last few blogs.
The past client said that the individuals should “surround themselves with smart, trustworthy people. You can’t do these sorts of things alone. Building a strong team around you takes time, a great deal of belief, money and tenacity.” They clearly hit on my recent themes of “you can’t do this alone” and “get good people on your team”; but, in just those few words they touched on so much more.
Of course, it should go without saying that you want to work with “smart, trustworthy people”, but it amazes me the number of stories I hear about people who are willing to take advantage of the naivete of many new business owners. So how do you avoid these types of situations where you might get “taken to the cleaners”? There are two aspects of this that I would like to touch on.
First, your referrals should, wherever possible, come from people you already know. Building a network of people you know and trust is something that you should always be doing. When you are about to start a business for the first time it is something that you should put into overdrive. This network should be your first stop for information and referrals.
Second, when these referrals take you out of your known network, you should still use your network as an extension to your “bulls**t meter”. Talking things over with people you know is a great way to help ferret out any potential issues with a situation. Try to get multiple viewpoints, as this will allow you to build a more complete picture of what may be happening and what your approach should be. Discussing things with others is also a first step to defining your Advisory Team.
I believe that this creation of a group of knowledgeable advisors is an important early step that is too frequently skipped by the first-time entrepreneur, or not handled with enough attention. It is important that your advisors have the requisite “been there; done that” experience; after all, you are looking to them to help you avoid making some of the mistakes that you most certainly would make without their advice.
To get multiple viewpoints, you will need to have advisors with overlapping knowledge and experiences. Don’t feel that just because you have advisor A with XYZ experience that you shouldn’t have someone else with similar or overlapping skills – after all, this isn’t some closed networking group where you can only have one person from each product/service area.
Even with this approach you are probably going to need to, at some point, build a business relationship with people that you don’t really know at the beginning of the relationship. In these situations, you should never be choosing from a pool of one. Understanding how different people can help you with the same issue allows you to better understand which is the person with the right approach for you. Of course, this is where it “takes time, a great deal of belief, money and tenacity” comes into play. This approach is going to take you longer to move forward with than if you just went with the first person you talked to. In the end it is time well spent, because it saves you time and aggravation (and possibly worse) down the road. Think of it as the difference between running off to Vegas to get married to someone you just met, versus taking time to get to know the person (meeting their friends, family, etc.) – running off to Vegas is not always the wrong choice, it just has a higher probability of being the wrong choice because there are so many more unknowns.
As I said last week, your team is important because the right team will allow you to move ahead more quickly with the growth of your business.