Why Small Businesses Need Advice

November 16, 2012

Consider the challenges that a business faces: Serving a market and identifying new ones. Product or service development and innovation. Recruiting and retention of good people. Physical and information infrastructure. Government regulations. Taxes. International sales. And many more.

Note that both large and small business face these challenges. In fact, small businesses face almost all of the challenges that large businesses face.

The difference is that small businesses lack the internal expertise of larger ones, as well as the money to hire outside consultants. So small businesses get by with the expertise they have and go it alone. Or, they seek out informal or formal advice from peers, business acquaintances, an advisory board, or anyone with knowledge and experience to bring to bear on their challenges and a willingness to lend an ear.

As CEO of Vivisimo Inc. from its founding (three people) in 2000 through 2009 (about 80 people), our company and I faced these challenges, made acute by the fact that Vivisimo had never taken on outside investors, so the financial stakeholders were largely all internal. Outside advice, both informal and formal, was critical to our success.

Small businesses, as well as small organizations like non-profits, are in special need of improving their advice-seeking skills, which enables making better internal decisions at no extra cost beyond time and dedication.

Book published!

November 9, 2012

After three years of research, writing, and editing, the book has just been published and is available through Amazon for  paperback and Kindle and Smashwords for eBooks.

I’ve been asked a very interesting question:  Anyone can benefit from advice, understood as bringing the knowledge and experience of others to bear on your problem, while acknowledging your circumstances and goals. In view of this, what is the right audience for your book?

I think that the most suitable readers are those who have some experience with this chain:  knowledge + experience + thinking ⇒ decisions ⇒ success OR failure. If you’ve not made any decisions in your life that are complicated, then you’re unaware of the roles that knowledge and experience play, and are oblivious to how bad outcomes can flow from faulty steps. For many young people, their first such experience is with applying to college after high school, or looking for a summer job after freshman year.

So one way to answer the question is: The book is for college sophomores and above, or for people with equivalent life experience. There is lots more to say about the best audience, which I’ll leave for another post.

Why do people avoid seeking advice?

March 7, 2012

My personal experiences, research, and discussions have uncovered 28 reasons that lead people not to seek personalized advice from others.

For example, here are three:

  • they just don’t think of it (this is very common)
  • they are too shy to approach others
  • they don’t want to share credit for a successful outcome

I’d like to hear from readers about their own thoughts, stories, and reasons why they or others haven’t proactively sought advice on important issues at work or in life.

February 1, 2012

The Advice is for Winners manuscript has six parts which follow a traveler metaphor:

  1. The Landscape
  2. Scouting Reports
  3. The Map
  4. Boulders and Watering Holes
  5. Paths Well Traveled
  6. The Destination

Part 1 explains the reasons for the book, analyzes what advice actually consists of, and goes through the many reasons (excuses) why people avoid seeking advice.

Part 2 reviews and builds on prior work: self-improvement books, scholarly literature, and proverbs.

Part 3 is about how to do advice-seeking right, taking an end-to-end view.

Part 4 looks at interesting or problematic stopovers, from dealing with contradictory advice, to the influence of national culture, and the proper role of the web and social media.

Part 5 looks at special cases of advice-seeking: recruiting & hiring, changing jobs, and picking a major.

Part 6 wraps up the lessons of the book.

Question for readers:  what questions about the advisory process would you like to see answered?


Should I Seek Advice on my Situation?

February 1, 2012

Think of a problem that is puzzling you. Should you seek personalized advice on the right course of action? Please click on Tools above and take the 20-item questionnaire, with true/false questions such as:

  • Others will suffer consequences if I do the wrong thing.
  • Others before me have often faced a similar problem.
  • Breaking totally new ground will be rewarded.
and then tell us what score you got and whether the questions help you think through the problem. And, if it’s not too private or confidential, please share with readers what the problem is.

Launch this website!

January 26, 2012

Greetings!  I just completed the manuscript for a book that will bear the same title as this website. I created the site to pose questions to audiences at public talks that I’ll be giving in the coming weeks and months.  I’ve discovered that every time I discuss these topics, I learn something that can benefit the manuscript and its future readers. So here I’d like to learn and share some more.

My goal is to encourage people to be more proactive in seeking personalized advice and to explain how to do it right. I think all people get better at these over time. If some can accelerate the timeline with my help, then they’ll be winners and so will I.