Leaders are looking for advice. Business people often need it. New challenges and ever-changing priorities leave us looking for fresh ideas.
Businesses operate at such a fast pace that owners and leaders are looking for advice wherever it is available. More often than not, you may reach toward the wrong resources. Un-tested advisors and questionable sources can send you down the wrong rabbit holes.
There are so many demands upon entrepreneurs and senior management of companies. Each organization is confronted with challenges and opportunities, both real and perceived. Without new ideas, it is tough to tackle all the obstacles and feel that substantial progress is being made.
It Is Lonely at the Top
From the owner’s seat, the need exists for comprehensive business ideas and growth strategies. Problem-solving solutions are valuable commodities. Couple these with the ever-present need for leadership development among senior executives and finding improved management skills, you have a serious thirst for new thoughts and ideas.
Top management regularly needs the creative inspiration to take the company to new heights. Cutting-edge executives (the very top and those about to take the mantle) need seasoned advice and inspiration.
The Go-To Ways We Find Answers
Here is where senior leaders and managers tend to go to get ideas, strategies, and help; in the order commonly used. The lower numbers represent the early choices. The higher numbers are where you should be reaching.
1. Hearsay and third hand – the “low lying fruit”, easy to find in abundance. Examples are comments heard at parties and networking functions, uninformed sources, friends of friends, high participation networkers, random research, and surveys.
2. Special Interests – narrows the expertise just a little more. These sources include websites containing educational material as a way to sell services, surveys, and their feedback.
3. People Selling Stuff – the Internet and social media is flooded with teaser offers to look like good information; vendors who distract you, using expressions like “funding to grow your business”, online marketing firms, Internet solicitors and sellers, website consulting
4. Internal Management – your own team should be reliable sources but can be risky at times. These are the people you work with, Mid-managers and supervisors, and Corporate leadership
5. Niche Experts and Consultants – moving up the chain further towards more reliable information: Trainers, Freelance consultants, niche solutions like banking, insurance benefits, human resources, etc. Then there are technology consulting firms and researchers.
In general, consultants are ranked lower on this scale for two reasons. First, the consulting field is over-crowded with sole practitioners who have lost jobs and cannot find work elsewhere.
Selecting a consultant is tricky business, not always much better than choices 1, 2 and 3 above. Plus, the better, more proven consultants quickly advance themselves to the higher ranking categories below; senior business advisors or outright gurus.
6. Educational Programs – better still might be dedicated educational platforms like speakers, seminars, panels at forums, workshops, trade conferences, webinars, and material published or broadcast in the media.
7. Books and Articles – sounds old school, but still valuable inspirations and information; books that withstand the test of time, articles excerpted for meetings, blog material posted online, self-published books by people with credible platforms, online articles and blogs, reputable authors already recognized as experts, and lastly cutting-edge books with original material (think Seth Grodin and Simon Sinek).
8. Advocacy Groups – these are everywhere. Some have long tenure, others not so much. Evaluate the reputation as you know it. Yet these can be rich resources for counsel and advice.
- Business clubs
- Chambers of commerce
- People with whom you work in community and charity leadership roles
- Boards of directors
- The Better Business Bureau
- Small Business Development Center
- Trade industry groups
- Community alliances
- Professional alliances
- Consortiums of business
- Cross-industry cooperative initiatives
9. Mentors – having a trusted advisor serving in a mentoring relationship can be a rich and rewarding experience for valuable ideas and wisdom. These are some of the better-known sources:
- Peer advisory groups such as Vistage, Silver Fox Advisors
- One-on-one coaching
- Peer-to-peer CEO roundtables
- Corporate heir apparent training or high potential programs
- Programs such as Shark Tank, Fox Den, Ted Talks
- Leadership programs
10. Senior Business Advisors – these are the professional service firms, including lawyers, accountants, marketing, public relations, quality management.
11. Major Business Gurus – top of the heap, proven thought leaders with wide, effective audiences who have used their advice and prospered. These experts have proven track records with many years in strategic advising, consulting or mentoring. The price point might be high, but the results are often 5x to 10x the investment.
Choose Wisely My Friend
With the field so full of choices, you must select wisely where you look for ideas, Then you must carefully decide which information to use for your next big decision.
Question: Where do you turn to look for inspiration and clear thinking about new ideas?
Author’s Note: Portions of this article were produced by permission from Hank Moore, a colleague of mine at Houston’s Silver Fox Advisors.
Hank Moore is that rare 1 out of 100,000 senior business advisors, a Big Picture strategist, with original, cutting-edge ideas for creating, implementing and sustaining corporate growth throughout every sector of the organization. His Business Tree™ is a trademarked approach to growing, strengthening and evolving business while mastering change.