Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Wrong Kind of Advice

This post was inspired by The Right Kind of Advice post on the nPost blog.

While telling someone to ignore naysayers and those that say you should go back and work for someone else is all nice and touchy-feely, it is also often dead wrong.

Telling someone that they are just not cut out to be an entrepreneur could be honestly good advice.

My ex-wife was a professional ballerina. She used to get people asking for advice about dancing ballet professionally. She could often simply look at the person and tell that they were not cut out for professional ballet. They may have loved ballet, been passionate and dedicated to ballet, but there was just no way that they were going to make it because they just did not have what it takes to be a professional ballet dancer.

Similarly, there are people that are just not cut out to be an entrepreneur. Heck, I may even be one of them. Telling them to just "go for it" or "follow your dream" is REALLY taking the easy road.

In order to give really good advice about this you need to get to know the person. You need to know what their goals are and how the business they are talking about fits into (and drives) their life. This is much harder than reviewing a business or marketing plan. It is much more difficult than assessing a market or opportunity. It requires real honest knowledge of the person and their life goals. It requires a deep understanding of their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, their vision and their blind spots.

No entrepreneur is perfect and no business model is slated for certain success. Our job is to provide assistance, insights, and even a push in the right direction.


Sometimes the right direction is away from being an entrepreneur.


Anonymous said...

Nice follow-up to the nPost article. I agree!

In my experience, the best advice comes from people who force you to ask the right questions of yourself and to be honest with yourself.

Generally if you're running a company you're smart and you know more about your industry and your product than others. But an outside voice -- even a devil's advocate -- can really help crystallize your thoughts.

At the risk of too much self promotion on this extended thread, a few months ago I wrote a post on the topic of distinguishing constructive criticism from bad advice, along with a true story from the early days of my company.

Rick Cogley said...

I am based in Japan, where the national pastime is second-guessing everything for fun and profit, so I am used to having to think through nay-sayers' no-ing. Saying "go for it" does a big disservice to that person, and is especially egregious if you know they are not cut out for it. Better to ask the hard questions, because the people that come through that gauntlet are more likely to either quit while they are ahead, or succeed.

Rick Cogley