What you Need to Know about Business Advice

If someone were to devise a Google like algorithm to assign value to business advice, then add up all of those values, the result would be some number very close to zero.

Take for example a business question that has been on the mind of every entrepreneur since at the dawn of the last ice age when the entrepreneurial Zog tried selling his pelts village to village. Of course no one in his village wanted any, they all had access to the same supply he did. As he carried his load to the other villages in the valley it was the same story. Zog was discouraged. He wondered, “Should I give up, or hump these things over the mountain and try to sell them in the next valley?”

Quit or persevere? One expert will tell you to know when to quit, another equally successful expert will opine that you should never quit. Assign a value of 5 to persist and –5 to quit, and you see that the advice adds up to zero.

The same is true for all opinions given without knowledge of the facts. They all have the same value. Zero, zilch, nada, nothing.

Sure, the generalities persist. It’s probably not a good idea to start a land war in Central Asia or try to make a better search engine than Google. It’s not likely that you can loose money on every transaction but make up for it on volume. And for God’s sake I don’t need another photo sharing app. But beyond that, you know more about what you’re doing than I or anyone else banging out advice on a keyboard.

If you’re wondering how it worked out for Zog: Zug, Zog’s cousin, was thoroughly informed on the ins and outs of pelt marketing. Five seasons ago he had traveled to both of the neighboring valleys and found them fully supplied in their pelting needs. He had informed Zog of these facts when he heard about he plan, and thought him thoroughly foolish to have persisted as long as he had.

The fact was that the valley to the east had an even more plentiful supply of pelts than did Zog’s valley. Carrying his pelts in that direction would have resulted in wasted effort and disappointment. The valley to the west though had suffered a local drought, driving away the animals and causing a shortage of warm pelts, which would have been in high demand.

Summer turned into autumn as Zog pondered his next move. One day a traveling spear salesman who had just been in the western valley told Zog of the animal shortage (and the lamentable effect it had on spear sales!) and ventured that he could make a fortune selling his pelts there. Zog wasted no time in loading up and embarking on his trek over the mountain. Unfortunately, with the ice age settling in, winter came early with a blizzard that forever entombed Zog and his pelts on the mountain.

Such are the perils of business and taking advice from the lightly informed.

Of course there are many other questions as difficult as persist or quit: sell direct, or through channels; produce your own product, or act as an agent; take on partners, or go it alone? Though there are many people with experience in each of these issues, they are questions which only you can answer.

This doesn’t mean that you should shun advice and plunge in uninformed. Quite the contrary; Learn everything you can. Question. Evaluate. Ship. And that’s my advice.