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Seek Wise Counsel

Have you ever wondered how some businesses seem to make the right decisions most of the time while you may struggle a bit and feel you make more than the average of wrong decisions?

In the Bible, Proverbs 22:15 says “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.”

This Proverb transcends all aspects of life and not just business. There is such great power in leaning on the experience of others. I’ve said this before, that you’re not a pioneer when it comes to business. Someone has already been there.  Why not use that knowledge and experience to your advantage?

Most people don’t think they have access to anyone who could really help them. They think their only option is to hire a high priced business guru or consultant. That certainly is one way to do it but for many it’s cost prohibitive. Another downside is a know, like and trust factor. You don’t ‘know’ this consultant. You’re not sure if you ‘like’ this consultant and you don’t ‘trust’ the consultant. These are three factors that are very important when making a decision of this magnitude.

Let’s say there’s a new restaurant in town and you want to go there but don’t know if it’s any good or worth going at all. What do you do? Ask friends if they’ve eaten there and if they have, how was it, right? They’re your friends, you know, like and trust their opinions. A couple good reviews from them and you’re making reservations. So let’s now apply that same method to helping your business. You’re not going to just ask your friends what they think you should do that would be foolish. Unless of course one of them had extensive business knowledge that could benefit you then go right ahead.

One thing that is very useful is to create your own board of advisers.  These are trusted and respected individuals who have experience in business. People who would be willing to help you with bigger decisions such as expansion, real estate, loans, etc. You probably know people in your circle of influence already if you put a little thought into it. Think about clients you may already have that you’ve built a good relationship with. People in real estate, banking, construction, marketing and any other business. Ask these people for a moment of their time. When you get it, tell them you really respect what they’ve accomplished and was wondering if you could run a couple questions by them regarding your business.

That is a great way to get advice. Most people who are in business and have succeeded are usually more than happy to help other aspiring business owners. And you should do the same thing for others. Always have an upstream and a downstream. Get help and give help and there’ll be no shortage of those willing to help you.

I used this same technique when I was faced with possibly having to close a gym I owned and was torn on whether to push through and pull it from the ashes or shut it down.   Fortunately for me I reached out to my board of advisers and one of them gave me some fantastic advice related to a similar struggle he had which helped me make the tough decision to close the gym. I would have never made that decision on my own. I know me, I would have gone down swinging but I still would’ve gone down. I would have been in deep debt and emotionally crushed from the fight and worse off than if I had walked away when he first suggested.

A big part of the wisdom he shared with me was even though he had failed in a similar situation, he didn’t let it keep him from getting back up and trying again. He let me know of a number of people who had been in similar situations. They failed and started again and were able to share not only their mistakes but their new methods of success that got them back on top. This is what gave me the courage to close the gym and start on a new adventure in business.  It was great advice and I’m so thankful I could have access to others' experience. 

One other memorable experience was with my water feature and sculpture business. I was doing fantastic building water features and steel sculptures. I then got this brilliant idea to open a retail store. Though my plan was a little out of the norm, it worked. I rented a building on a very busy intersection. 40,000 cars a day drove by, most of them having to stop at the traffic light sooner or later. I had 4 parking spaces and about 900 square feet inside the building. Only $1,250.00 a month rent!

I built a pond with a waterfall in the front corner of the lot. Put big signs on the building and my first month I got $235,000 in work from that pond/building. Then I painted the outside of the building a wild blue color. Then I put two waterfalls coming off the side of the building from the roof. A real show stopper. Everybody knew who I was after that and the phone rang constantly. No one ever came into the store but the location, signs and display did its job.

Then my success got me thinking. I should open a store in the heart of the retail district and sell indoor water features of all sizes along with my sculptures. So I quickly found the “Perfect spot” and signed a 5 year lease for $4,700.00 a month. One month later I had painted, built out, ordered inventory and opened the doors. I consulted with nobody in this entire process. I was a success already, why would I need any advice? Oh, by the way, I closed the other location because I was going to kill it in this new location. 

That’s when one of my biggest clients came into the store. He was a billionaire. A wonderful human being too. He greeted me then looked around the store. He looked at an employee I had working there then had me step outside. I asked him what he thought and he told me. “The place looks great. You know what is going to happen though?” I shook my head no. “ The people of this town will come in here, look at what you have, then go on the web and order it just so they can save 10 bucks.” Then he said “Get rid of that guy, he shouldn’t work here.” His last question was “What are you paying in rent here $5,000? That’s gonna be tough, believe me.”

You talk about a punch in the gut! He shook my hand and headed down the street. My pride just shoved those words to the back of my mind. “He’s wrong, I’ll make this work, I always do.” That’s what pride will do. It will eliminate reason from your faculties and you’ll do really dumb things. Needless to say, 10 months later It was over for the store. He was right on every account including the employee! I lost over $100,000 on that little brainchild of mine.

Can you see where all it would have taken was one phone call to my client to run this idea by him first? There was no going back to the other location either. People talked about that location for years because it was so memorable. My big client loved that location too. Now I had no retail locations and lost over a 100k in the process. Don’t do what I did! Consult with trusted advisors it can save you from making enormous and costly mistakes. 

Board of advisers, coaches, mentors, they all will help you accelerate your business and keep you from making some major mistakes, so make use of them.  Most successful people are always willing to help the next entrepreneur on their way up. Look around you and see both who can help you and who you can help. Don’t make it a one way street. Be a giver not a taker and a producer not a consumer in all you do. Do these things and success will follow you wherever you go I promise you.

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