I am often asked by entrepreneurs and business owners, “What do I do with conflicting business advice?”

If you are like many people in business, at some point you have likely experienced receiving conflicting advice from various actual (or wannabe) business advisors or information sources: such a list may include accountants or CPAs, attorneys, business coaches, professional or business mentors, colleagues, professional publications, online “experts,” online articles or news sources, well-known business experts, or talking heads (on television, radio, or elsewhere). Whose advice should you follow?

Do you follow the advice of your accountant who says you don’t yet make enough money to justify setting up a proper business structure, your business coach who says that all you need is liability insurance for the type of work you do, the online article published by a company who creates legal templates (and sells them for top dollar) and offers to set your company up for you in a snap (after suggesting the 29 add-on services), or your dad’s golf buddy who is an attorney and litigator, but has *some* experience in business law and is happy to give you his best opinion (which is that you should have set up your multi-national corporation yesterday).

Does any of this sound familiar?

What do you do when various people you trust have differing opinions when it comes to business, tax or other strategic advice?

Here are six strategies for deciding what fits and whose advice to follow:

  1. Take Inventory of Your Needs First. If you don’t know what you need, all the advice you receive (including bad advice) might stick. Accurately taking stock of your current needs will improve the quality of the advice you receive (based on requesting the right thing in the first place). If you order a hamburger, you are unlikely to get a hotdog instead, even if it was really the hotdog you wanted. The success (or applicability) of most answers often depends on the framing of the question. Are you needing comprehensive tax strategy (for your business), or simply end-of-year tax preparation? Do you need a marketing strategy, or do you first require market research to help you redefine your target market in the first place? Being clear on your needs is much more likely to result in finding the right advisor.
  2. Consider the Source. It seems obvious to say, but don’t take advice from peers, family, friends, or acquaintances, or anybody else who is not either extremely successful in business or in a particular area of business, or who is not regularly paid by others for providing the same kind of advice. And even if the source is qualified to give strategic advice in one area (how to improve your marketing message or obtain more clients, for example), you should consider whether they are the right choice to be providing advice in every area of your business (i.e. legal advice on which business structure to choose).
  3. Know Your Personal Risk Tolerance. It generally does not work well to take an aggressive approach to business and business growth, (whether on your own or with the help of a business mentor or coach), and at the same time attempt to follow a conservative tax strategy or fiscally-restrictive money coach. As my own business coach has been known to say, “you cannot get both (financially) fat and skinny at the same time.” Know your personal risk tolerance, and intentionally select advisors that will either help you achieve a balance in your approach from a risk perspective if that is what you need, or implement a plan consistent with your risk preference – just be cognizant of what it is that you want to achieve and understand where your advisors fit into your plan.
  4. Get Exposure to Numerous Advisors. Seek opportunities often to get excellent advice. The more experience you have in receiving, interpreting and filtering feedback from qualified advisors, the better able you will be to determine what fits for you based on skill, experience, quality of advice, personality, and alignment with your business needs.
  5. Choose Advisors Aligned With Your Vision. Although it can certainly be beneficial to hear a wide range of advice to help you decide what fits, it is important that you ultimately work with advisors who are aligned with your vision and who have experience in successfully guiding others to where you want to go. If you want to climb a mountain, it seems natural that you would speak to other mountain climbers, or climbing guides, especially ones who have experience climbing the same mountain you want to climb. If you want to cross a desert, you should probably talk with those who are skilled in crossing deserts. Don’t attempt to cross a desert based on the advice of someone who only believes in traveling by submarine. If you are trying to build a personal brand, and not a Wal-Mart, you should probably not hire an architect whose specialty is big box (concrete) stores.
  6. Trust Your Intuition. Many people are tempted to follow the advice of another because we are often inclined to minimize our own instincts or hunches if it is not an area in which we have significant experience. However, with any advice that you receive, I always recommend that you ask yourself “Does this ring true? Does this feel like the right path?” If not, you could be well served to seek additional opinions. (Only from qualified advisors, of course). Continue to ask “Does this feel right? Does this ring true?” (until it does). You will be well-served by checking in regularly with yourself.

I hope that these strategies will help you find and select advisors who will serve you and your business well. The right advisors can make all the difference in business (and in life).

Remaining selective and intentional regarding your vision, your risk tolerance, and your current needs will help to filter out advice that you may be tempted to take, but that may not truly be the best fit for you, depending on the circumstances. And always evaluating your advisor’s previous experience, quality of advice, and demonstrated successes will help you to better determine if they are truly a fit for you.  {I wish you great success in climbing your mountain, or crossing your desert, whatever your choice!}


Here are my last three posts in case you missed them!

Protecting Your Work as an Author :: Negotiating Literacy Agency Agreements

Copyright 101 for Information Entrepreneurs :: Coaches, Consultants, Speakers, Authors & Online Educators

Intellectual Property Basics for Modern Entrepreneurs 


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