A word from the wise
November 4, 2009

A word from the wise

By Barry

A word from the wise


I attended an advisory board meeting yesterday and it reminded me that we all need some independent advice on our strategies and businesses, no matter what size they are. We all try to see the upside of our businesses and get emotionally entangled whether it be with our 5 year business plan or a domain name that we convince ourselves will make us rich.

While the meeting at which I was presenting  involved over 10 advisers, most of us do not need to formally appoint anyone. 

What makes a good advisor?

These are the three characteristics I think are most important:

  • Knowledgeable in the field
  • Discreet
  • Impartial and honest

Knowledgeable in the field

You want to have someone who is respected in the field and who has hands on experience. They do not have to be the very best in the area but they must understand what you are trying to do and what others in the same area are attempting to do.


You don’t want your business model or intellectual assets to be passed along to your competitors. Larger businesses use a CDA or confidential disclosure agreement to ensure their trade secrets remain secret. A small business may not be able to afford the legal fees nor be able to bear the cost of enforcing the agreement in court. An alternative is to pick someone you trust and reveal only what is necessary to properly review your business model and plan.

Impartial and honest

There is no point in picking an advisor who will agree with everything you do and say. The only time this is useful is where you are trying to encourage investment in your business. To get useful advice, you need to encourage the advisor to be honest and direct and you should not be defensive.

Being defensive

Getting comments in writing helps avoid the natural defensiveness that arises from criticism. You can then review the comments at a later time separating yourself from the emotional reaction.

Expect criticism

If there is none, then your advisor is probably not giving you what you need to improve your business

Expect actionable advice

If some aspect of your business is criticized, then ask what action would be recommended to address the issue.

You don’t have to act on every piece of advice given but make sure it is a rational choice.

Lectures supplémentaires

Measuring the impact of advice

If you enact some aspect of the advice given, make sure you can measure whether it helped or not. A financial target or customer goal can help you evaluate the impact of the change you made.

Falling in love with your business may give you the energy and passion to promote your business. It may also cloud your judgement to make the hard rational decisions all businesses need. Finding independent advice is a simple way to avoid falling into this common trap.

How many of you are getting independent advice? Does it help? Can you afford it?