Watch out for dodgy business advice

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Open mike night, Marks Park, Emmerentia, Johannesburg. Photo: Chesney Bradshaw
Open mic night, Marks Park, Emmerentia, Johannesburg. Photo: Chesney Bradshaw

We were halfway to a music venue when we realised that all the suburbs were impacted by the electricity power failure. But we really wanted to see the show because we had heard good reports and had waited several weeks to attend. When we got there the venue was in darkness except for a few candles.

The organisers had decided to continue with the musical show despite the electricity failure. One of the organisers drove his car up to the back window and shone his car headlights onto a circle in the middle of the large auditorium to light up the performers. This was a showcase of local talent young and old and gave us an opportunity to listen to music that you don’t hear on the radio, at big concerts and in pubs.

The highlight of the evening was four songs played by a man and woman duet using acoustic instruments, the guitar and violin, and singing voices without any amplification because of the electricity failure. It was simply wonderful to hear the pure sounds of human voices singing at their best accompanied by acoustic musical instruments. Two of the compositions were original and demonstrated stunning talent.

This brings me to the question of small business. If if you were to start a small business based on your idea where would you get business advice? Let’s take the example of someone who wants to learn a musical instrument or even sing. If you wanted to play well, you wouldn’t necessarily get an academic or music professor to teach you how to play the guitar or violin. You would want someone who has played either of those instruments for a number of years, is experienced and accomplished.

This is why it’s important to be sceptical when going for free or low-cost courses for aspiring entrepreneurs. Would you want to pay good money for a course from an institution with an academic focus that is not very relevant to the real world or from some online course that is thin on real-world experience and teaches you outdated concepts?

There’s also the issue of getting these courses from your local business chambers and other such institutions where the advice comes from people who have been in big business but have no hands-on, real-world experience of running a small business.

The best source of solid, proven and dynamic entrepreneurial advice comes from entrepreneurs who have failed and succeeded and know the pain and difficulties in starting a new business or developing an idea into a business venture. These are the people who will quickly tell you if your idea needs further development or even scrapping. They may even have the experience encourage to warn you against going into running your own small business because you may not have the aptitude or competencies for it.

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. The small business or entrepreneur business is peddled as a kind of fantasy by people who want you to believe that using their course or advice will lead you to the Yellow Brick Road. The hard truth is that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur and you need to do deep self-analysis and be honest with yourself about whether you have the competencies, aptitude and courage.

Yes, you can search online for information on the Internet that can help you in your entrepreneurship dream but unless that information is backed by an experienced, competent and proven entrepreneur, it’s not worth touching with a barge pole. The Internet is now littered with so much information on small business opportunities that it becomes difficult for people to sort the good from the bad. Just like you not going to learn the guitar or violin for even sing well from reading articles on the Internet or dipping into books, it’s hardly likely that you’ll find the secret steps to developing your ideal business strictly from such sources online.

Business advice can be the biggest risk to your future. It’s something that none of us want to hear when we are excited about a new idea we’ve come up with or even a second-hand business or franchise we wish to invest in. But a cool head and a large dose of scepticism will prove enormously helpful. I can think of few better ways to evaluate any business idea or business investment than to focus on a very clear understanding of future earnings projections. If Warren Buffet walks away from potential deals that are difficult or impossible to their predict future earnings, surely we would be wise to do the same?

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