Tuesday, August 21 , 2018, 5:31 am | Fog/Mist 66º


Paul Burri: Business Advice You Might Not Want to Hear

Some people claim to want help but either only want affirmation or aren't willing to make changes

Giving advice, and especially giving business advice, can be very satisfying, but it can also be a frustrating experience in some cases. The ideal situation is when someone knows they need advice, is open to hearing what they are being told and then, hopefully, takes at least some of it.

Of course, a good counselor knows it is not always possible to immediately act on every piece of advice one gets. (And I am assuming here that the one who is doing the advising knows what he or she is talking about.) Good advice may need to be deferred for many reasons, such as money (and the lack thereof), suitable personnel availability, health, facility space or the timing related to current economic conditions. A good adviser will understand and accept those reasons.

But then there are two other kinds of people who ask for advice who can be frustrating to a qualified adviser. The first kind is the person who claims they want advice when what they really want is affirmation. They want the adviser to confirm — and approve — of whatever their business plans happen to be. If their adviser happens to bring up some valid objections or mentions some possible problems, the client’s usual response will be, “Yes, but ...” And then it soon becomes obvious that the client has already made up his or her mind and doesn’t really want any negative response from the adviser.

I try to forestall people like this during our first meeting by asking them directly whether they really want advice or affirmation. I usually go on to say that if they merely want affirmation, they should talk to their mother or another sympathetic family member. Once we get that out of the way, we can get down to business.

The other kind of person who supposedly wants advice is the one who owns a business that is not doing well but is unwilling or unable to make any changes from the way the business is being operated. As the old saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re gonna keep getting what you’ve been getting.”

I recently had a client who falls into that third category. Sadly, the individual was not able to make any changes from the methods he had learned from his predecessor. I’m not sure whether this was due to lack of confidence in my experience and advice, fear of the unknown or some other emotional reasons. Incidentally, I did not suggest any immediate, drastic changes. All of my suggestions were based on gradual changes that he and I would monitor to be sure they were improvements over his existing methods. I am pretty certain I made that clear to my client. I was sad to learn that it was not possible for him to try adopting some of my suggestions. I am certain they would have improved his business.

“If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re gonna keep getting what you’ve been getting.”

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

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