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Don’t Let Your Friends Tell You How to Run Your Business

by Jim Martin

Relatives and friends love to give advice to those who have opened (or bought) a business. Their intent may be good, but listening to them could be painful. Consider this: would you make three visits to the train station and assume that qualifies you to try to run the railroad? Well, that’s roughly how much your brother-in-law knows about your business.

You wouldn’t let your brother-in-law do your taxes (unless he was a real CPA) or give you a medical exam (even if he had medical training). Why would you let him tell you how to manage your livelihood? He hasn’t done the market research that would allow him to suggest that you expand your product line. He doesn’t know what it takes to stay ahead of your competitors. He’s never read your business plan. He’s never had to manage your employees, and he surely doesn’t know had to tweak a shipping schedule.

This is particularly true in what seem like panic situations. Imagine: the deck is on fire, and you’re sure the ship is sinking. Your brother-in-law pops up with a bucket of isopropyl alcohol and says, “Here! Liquids put out fires.” When you’re in a panic, you’re more inclined to accept any solution, even one that has a few flaws (like an ability to make the fire worse). Friends who give advice are only trying to help, even when the help their trying to give you looks a lot like a hand grenade. You can consider their advice, but don’t act on it until you’ve considered all the possible results. Don’t act if you have any doubt.

Instead, get professional help that does understand the relevant aspects of your business: a CPA, a Lawyer, a patent attorney (if you need one) and a SCORE mentor who can bring a lot of experience to your questions.