I don’t believe any entrepreneur knows everything he or she needs to know. That’s especially true when someone is starting a business, but many people starting first businesses don’t even realize what they don’t know.
There are a lot of different ways you can find good advice. Some of it is free. The SBA website, for instance, offers a lot of good information. Many communities have free information for entrepreneurs and business people. SCORE can put you in contact with a retired executive who can provide some guidance. Some organizations bring in speakers on topics relevant to your business.
Although all of us acknowledge that we’ve made some mistakes along the way, it can be costly to plan to learn by trial and error. Ask yourself what might be the consequences if you don’t get advice? Think not only about the affect on profitability but also about time costs. Delays in getting a product to market or late receivables that affect your cash flow could have a serious impact on your business. If the costs are potentially high, it’s worth paying for advice. What you don’t know can hurt you.
You’ll do well to pay for help with taxes and legal advice (assuming you’re not a CPA or attorney yourself). If you’re new to your market, you may also benefit from hiring a consultant who has particular experience with that market. Consultants are particularly helpful when you’re ready to grow or expand your business and need to evaluate various strategies.
An option for free advice may be a business mentor. Consider whether you know someone who has something to offer. Matthew Stibbe blogged recently on How to Ask Someone to Be Your Business Mentor. He cautions you to remember that you’re asking for a favor, so don’t expect too much of a mentor’s time. And make sure your business plan is in order, because a business mentor needs to see it. Stibbe also suggests that if the potential mentor is not someone you know, try to arrange an introduction through a mutual contact. [Tip of the hat to Dane Carlson for Stibbe’s post.]
The key is realizing when you need advice and being willing to ask! The worst thing that can happen is, the person will say, “No”.