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Who Should You Be Listening To?

Who should you be listening to?

How do you know who you should be taking advice from and, even more importantly, how do you know what you should be implementing? These are not easy questions to answer because it’s a very crowded marketplace out there. Many people are vying for your attention right now. They’re vying for your time. So, first and foremost, I want to thank you for stopping to read this because I don’t take it lightly that you’ve chosen to spend this time here. My commitment to you, as always, is to give you as much value and content as I can.

So, who should you be listening to in a marketplace where everyone is shouting, everyone is promising things, everyone has the next best thing or the best solution to your problem?

Before you listen to anyone, including me, by the way, ask yourself two questions. This is going to help you create a filter that you can read or listen to any content through. The first question is this; does what this person is saying make sense – does it sound like the truth – does it sound honest, insightful, realistic – or does it sound fanciful, like empty promises, hollow dreams, magic pills, nonsense? Put that filter up. Does it make sense?

The second question is; does this person have or sound like they have your best interests at heart – do they sound completely self-serving – do they sound like they’re making promises they can’t live up to – or do they sound like they really want you to succeed – to know this information and give you great value?

Obviously, a lot of the information on offer to you is part of someone else’s business. This article, for example, is completely free of charge, as is my podcast. I’m giving this out to a wide audience to consume. I also have a business on the back end of this – Bigger Brighter Bolder. We have Success Groups, we have our Extreme Growth Masterminds, where we’re helping ambitious entrepreneurs just like you. But the aim of this article and my podcast is just to educate and help people – that’s its primary purpose.

Of course, it makes sense in the broader picture of my business. I want you to read this. I want you to get value from it and ideally, I want you to connect with me too. Who knows, maybe one day you and I will do business together. It’s not about being cynical – thinking that this is just how business works. The question is, is it completely self-serving? Is it there to serve my needs rather than your needs? Does it have your best interests at heart?

Ask those questions – that’s the filter you put in between you and this kind of information. Put it there right now and listen to me through it. If I don’t pass that test for you then yes, you guessed it, you don’t need to listen to me or read this any longer.

Okay, so on the assumption that I’ve passed my own filter test here, let’s get stuck in. Let’s have a think for a moment about the different types of information out there. I tend to put these into categories and I’m going to share them with you to help you determine whether what you’re hearing, reading and watching, is relevant to you.

The first category is relevance. It may potentially be valuable information but not relevant to you. When you read a book, so much of the content is going to be generic in its nature. It has to be if that book is to appeal to a wide audience. So, the question is really simple. Is this information relevant to where you are in your business right now? There is no point listening to a billionaire talk about how to create a billion-pound business if you are literally starting up or running a 50K or 100K business. You might listen to it for inspiration. I listen to Richard Branson’s books and others like that. They inspire me, but I’ll be honest with you, not much of it is particularly applicable to me right now. I’m not going to look at Virgin and think, right, here’s what I’m going to learn. It is good stuff, it feels authentic, it feels like the truth, but it’s not relevant.

I like this next category. Well-meaning nonsense. What do I mean by this? It comes from people who don’t really understand what they’re saying, or even really why they’re saying it, but it’s conventional wisdom and they’re just passing it on to make you feel better or to try and help you in some way. Here’s an example.

‘If you build it, they will come.’ This is from Field of Dreams – an awesome film, by the way. A lovely film but terrible business advice. The idea is that if I just build something big enough, build it well enough, if I’m a nice enough person, the business will come. You’ve probably been in business long enough now to know this isn’t true. You know that’s not how it works. You know that you have to build a great business, build a great product, but also that you have to work your arse off in order to go out there and meet your market and let them know you exist. You can’t just build this awesome thing and have them queuing up for it. They’re saying to you, just dig in, do a good job, do the best you possibly can and it’ll all be okay.

Unfortunately, the world is full of businesses out there – many of them way worse than yours – who are doing way better than you. You should be doing better than them but you’re just not succeeding in the same way they are. It’s not about how great your product is, it’s how well you market it and how much energy you put behind it, how hard you work, the disciplines you put in place. But that’s not the content we’re looking at today, I’m just illustrating what I mean by well-meaning nonsense – nice stuff which makes you feel better.

Here’s another category I want you to think about. Repetition of ill-conceived conventional wisdom. You’ll probably know both of these examples. One is, ‘work on your business, not in your business.’ The other is, ‘work smart, not hard.’ And again, this article isn’t about either of these, but I’m using them to give you an idea of what I mean by conventional wisdom. The problem I have with these two sayings, and there are loads of others out there, is that, as a small business owner, if you’re not working in your business you’re not making any money, because you only get paid when you’re in your business delivering what it is that you do.

As your business grows, of course, you may increasingly work on your business and less in your business. If you want to sell your business at some point in the future, you need to get yourself completely out of it, otherwise it’s not sellable. We know that to be true. But when that advice comes at the wrong stage, what I see is a load of business owners really slowing down their business growth because they’re just not doing enough of the stuff that makes the money. They’re not in their business enough because they feel like they need to sit on top of the business and do the working on stuff.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t work on your business. My problem with that ill-conceived conventional wisdom is ‘work on, not in’. Initially, do a bit on and lots of in. As your business grows, you do more on and less in. That’s how it works.

But I’m getting side-tracked. That’s not what this article is about.

Work smart, not hard’ – Here we go again. It’s conventional wisdom and very common. It’s bullshit. Really. I always say, working smart is what makes working hard work. You can also say, working hard is what makes working smart work. In other words, you need the two things together. You know that’s true. Obviously, it’s true. I do sometimes come across lazy entrepreneurs who bought into this idea that if they’re just smart enough, clever enough if they just get enough knowledge on board, they won’t have to work hard. The truth of the matter is, no one’s ever achieved anything of any real magnitude without working their arse off. I’ve had to, you’ve probably had to, and of course, we’re going to have to continue to do so.

The good news is that, as an entrepreneur, if you do it for long enough, if you work hard enough and if you’re smart enough as well, you do create a business that continues to give back. It gives you time, lifestyle and everything else you want. You just don’t get to have it up front. You have to pay your dues and get the rewards later. And again, I don’t have a problem with the idea of working smart. It’s the working smart, not hard that I have the issue with and that’s what I mean by ill-conceived conventional wisdom. If you take that on board at even an unconscious level, it will stop you doing what you need to do in order to be successful, especially as a smaller business.

Some of this information that you’re receiving is downright damaging to your business. You need to really watch out for this stuff because it can masquerade as any of the categories we’ve talked about. It could be really good stuff, just terrible advice for where you are right now, even to the point where it actually damages your business. I have come across businesses that have been mentored by business coaches or mentors who operate in businesses so much bigger than that of the person they’re mentoring. The strategies they give them to implement are way beyond what the business requires, and they get so bogged down that they don’t actually grow their business – the momentum starts to slow down and the business plateaus. It can be damaging because they’re not doing the right thing at the right stage of their business. It’s well-meaning stuff. It’s from a mentor. And I’m not saying that it’s wrong information, but if it’s coming from someone who is doing £10 million and you’re doing a 100K, they may have completely forgotten what it’s like to be where you are right now.

There are coaches out there mentoring businesses out of a manual. Here’s your business 101. Put these systems in place. Have processes in place and get your financial dashboards up. Here’s your marketing strategy. It’s real cookie-cutter stuff. It is content that would bury a 100K business but it’s being given to 50K businesses.

It’s about being in the right gear for the right conditions. When you’re in your car, pulling out of a parking space, you’re in first gear. That’s the best gear, the most productive gear for what you’re doing. When you’re joining a motorway, you join it in fourth, fifth or sixth gear – the most appropriate gear for the conditions you’re in. Applying a £10 million strategy to a start-up business is like trying to pull out of a parking space in fifth gear. Trying to apply a 50K strategy to a million-pound business, or even a 100K business, is like trying to join a motorway in first or second gear. As we evolve in our business, as we grow as entrepreneurs, we have to change gears. We apply a certain strategy to a start-up, then we have to shift gears to a new strategy which might take us to 50K, perhaps change again for 100K, and again at 200K, to hit half a million or a million, and again to hit multiple eight figures, 10 million or above. I’m not saying that any of this information is wrong, I’m not even saying it’s bad. It’s just really, really bad for where you are right now.

So, the question is, who are you listening to? If it’s a mentor who’s been there before you, it could be incredibly valuable, but if they can’t really remember or associate with where you’re at, you may well be getting the wisdom relevant to where they are now, which won’t be relevant to where you are now. Whilst it’s great shit, it’s not great now. It’ll slow you down.

I’ve seen people applying strategies beyond where they’re at and watched their businesses stall for a year or more. That’s crazy, right? We want business growth. We want momentum. We want to get clear. We want extreme growth then we want to bed down and get our businesses rock solid. Then we go again. Does this make sense? If you’re starting to apply strategies from way up in the stratosphere when you’re literally just trying to get off the ground, it will bury your business.

First and foremost, put the filter up. Who are you listening to? Do they have your best interest at heart? Does it make sense? Yes? That’s the information you should be listening to. Is this person offering you advice for where you’re at right now or are they offering you advice for some time in the future? It needs to be the stuff that’s going to get you to the next rung of that ladder. It’s really important that you bear this in mind.

In my own business, many years ago, I was given a marketing strategy. It was a template and we filled in all the twelve aspects of marketing. One of the twelve was social media. Within social media, there were Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, the podcasting I’m now doing, Instagram, and there are another 50 that I don’t even know of. I’m too old to even know what they are. Even if you just took the big four or five, that in itself would be overwhelming for a small business to try and tackle properly. So if we sit there and say, here are the 12 things that you should be doing, one of which is social media, one of which is a newsletter, networking, et cetera, each one is so time-consuming that if you’re a small business owner working on your own, or just one or two of you, you’ll spend so long doing this that you’ll never actually create the business. You’ll be out of business before you sell anything because you’ll be so bogged down with your social media activity.

The strategy that we were given, by the way, is very similar to the one we’ve recently implemented in our business and it’s taking me, my life and business partner, Tracey, and three permanent members of staff, two of whom are working on this all the time. We also have external help costing us thousands of pounds, by the way. It’s cost us about 50K and it’s taking hours and hours, more hours than one person has to deliver. It is this incredible amount of implementation that we are just managing to do in our business right now and we were given it when we were running at 50K. This content, from a lovely, well-meaning guy, was actually damaging to our business. It gave us the impression that we had to deliver this to survive.

At the time, I was doing 40 to 50 hours of delivery a month, doing all the other business growth stuff on top of that, weekends, evenings and early mornings. I was probably doing 60 to 80 hours a week sometimes on my business, trying to implement this bloody strategy that I’ve only just managed to implement now that we’ve got a whole team of people in the business. It was such a bad strategy and we failed miserably at it. It burnt us out, wore us down, didn’t work, and I only really realised how bad it was when I looked at the strategy we put in place at the beginning of this year and saw how similar it is. Five years later, my business is multiple times bigger than what it was back then.

You’ve got to start finding some really trustworthy sources. There’s so much information out there for you. Some of it is really good, some of it is really bad, some of it is just terrible for where you are right now and some, a sliver of it, is absolutely perfect for this moment in time. Make sure you seek that out. That’s the stuff that you should be implementing. Do that and you’ll get yourself and your business onto the fast track.

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