Kate’s Q&A – April 2015

Welcome to Kate’s Q&A for April. Thanks to Tony for his question, which was:

Who do you go to for advice if you are doing something that is outside of your skill set?

You see Tony has big plans to do something he hasn’t done before – and it’s big, multimillion in terms of turnover and funding and he needs some input.

It’s a great question, thank you, and the answer is this. I basically have a mini network of people that I go to for advice. They are ‘selected’, for want of a better word, because of what they can bring to the table at that period in time.

I don’t know who you know so I can’t tell you who to select, but the principles are as follows. I get my advice from two primary sources – networking and paid advisers. And here are the key rules:

Hang out with people who know WAY more than you do. It’s not good being a big fish in small pond – great for your ego maybe but not good for your business – you need to be hanging out with people that know WAY more than you – so my current network crowd includes a £11m company in manufacturing, a £12m food producer, a £16m PR company and a £8m educational support company. When my turnover starts surpassing theirs I’ll find a group of £100m CEO’s to hang around with.

This goes for advisers too – I’m working with a new non-exec director who has experience in taking companies from a few million to £150m, so I am learning how to SCALE my business from him. His name is Martin Norbury – and if you want his details PM me and I’ll share the contact.

People are very happy to share advice and there are lots of groups you can join to help you – and they are worth every penny.

The second bit of advice is to apply filters. Advice is one thing – but blindly following people and not applying what you know about your business is quite frankly silly. I’ve known a few people to follow the input of their advisers without a second thought, and then bitterly regretted the outcome of it. Advisers can only advise – in the end it’s up to you to cherry pick the advice you want to apply in your business.

Put it this way: 3 years ago I asked a mate who at the time had a courier company twice the size of mine whether what I was planning to do would work and he said no, it wouldn’t. I had to override his advice at the time because although I deferred to his ability to create his business in one environ, I knew I could do this on a national basis. I listened to where his areas of concern were and still forged my own path – and on my head be it BTW. I have succeeded thus far – and he takes his hat off to me – because his advice was limited to his own experience. I had to apply my own filters.

This brings me neatly on to point number 3: Your advisers will need to change as your business grows. I have changed accountants (now using Tayabali Tomlin – PM me for details), networking groups and discussion groups in the last six months – and I am sure it won’t be the last change either. As we grow, my need for advice will change so these elements are constantly up for review. Don’t get friendly or sentimental – these groups/advisers are tools for your success, and when you outgrow them you need to move onwards and upwards.

Point number 4 is a biggy: You need to be open to input. No point listening if you don’t actually take on board what people have to say. Regardless of industry, nothing we are experiencing is unique (business issues are remarkably generic) so don’t put up the ‘but that won’t work for me’ barrier. Think instead ‘how can I make that apply to my business’.

One big fat warning – do not listen to friends and family, unless they fulfill the criteria previously outlined i.e. have been there and done it before. Your dad or your aunt Mabel may be well intentioned but actually their closed perspective can be seriously limiting – and their motivation may be to keep you safe rather then to enable your growth so you have to filter the comments of these well-intentioned naysayers big time.

And don’t use these advisers/networking groups/ resources as a crutch – I know plenty of people who followed the same path I did 3 years ago and are yet to achieve their goals, whereas I have achieved my goals, and moved onwards and upwards to my next set of resources to achieve the next round. Simply having an adviser, networking with the right people, getting the right resources doesn’t make you successful. You still actually have to do stuff. Success doesn’t just rub off – your contacts and advisers are just one element in a very long list of ingredients in your success recipe with the major ingredient being application and actually doing the stuff as advised.

So in summary hang out with big fish, apply filters, change your advisers regularly and be open to input. Get in touch if you’d like details on my networking group, accountant or advisers – I will be happy to share those with you.

I trust this helps. And good luck Tony – it looks very exciting for you!

Bye for now.