Monday, 18 January 2010

#4: Too much love will kill you.

Throughout Jan I will be posting installments of the "12 entrepreneurial lessons I learnt from 2009" series

So far: Introduction, Lesson #1, Lesson #2, Lesson #3

The thrill of starting a business arrives packaged with a rather daunting number of peripheral and unexpected tasks. Between the innocuous and the merely burdensome, there will be a few which invariably require new knowledge and the development of completely new skills.

For any entrepreneur, the natural response to discovering a task that you cannot easily complete is either to get someone else to do it, or learn to do it yourself. Unfortunately the natural state of being for any startup is dead broke, more often than not therefore ruling out the first option! Thankfully, knowledge (or at the very least the perception of it) is fairly easy to come across and frequently free.

Local authority support agencies, peers, Government advice publications, enterprise seminars, consultants, online forums, networking events, meet up groups and countless websites and blogs are waiting, eager to give you the answer that will propel you to success faster than you can say "the next Google" and if you really are a novel business with genuine growth potential they'll be clamouring over themselves to give you their opinion on your product & projections.

Is it altruism?
Is it heck! There's personal gain in the equation somewhere. The question is: where, how does this drive their motivation, and will it compromise the impartiality of their advice to you? I mean, is it really fair to ask a cash-strapped patent attorney their advice on whether you ought to engage in a world-wide patent or if UK & USA will suffice, when the differential is tens of thousands of pounds worth of business?

And all other things being equal would you rather take advice from a business advisor:
    - paid by the hour
    - paid in relation to the positivity of their client feedback forms
    - paid according to the number of cases they get through in a day
    - paid in relation to the number of companies they coached that reach tax threshold within 2 years

I’ve blogged before about how crucial good advice and support is to guide a promising startup through the tough transitions to healthy business. What I didn't say was, like so many things in this life: some is essential, too much can seriously set you back and the wrong kind will destroy you entirely. Brian May had it right as far as I'm concerned, “Too much love will kill you, just as sure as none at all”

You see the thing is, having 5 pieces of conflicting advice serving 5 different agendas, when you're uncertain .. well, it's not a great deal more helpful than having no advice at all, at least not in any practical sense.

Last year, after far too many months running around in circles, Red Button Design was lucky enough to get an introduction to The Ketchup Group who now provide us with support both tailored specifically to our business, and targeted only to the gaps in our knowledge. This creates minimum overlap and encourages us to confidently take the lead where we know best. Most favourably of all, due to the flexibility they afforded us in choosing a structure for our relationship, Red Button Design's success will directly benefit each of the companies in the group. And sod altruism, when deciding to trust someone to share my business decisions, linking their personal gain to my aims is the most comfortable I'm going to get!

Advice is essential. Take it where you need it and by all means give it where you can, but pick you advice sources carefully, examine their motives* and most of all, know when to stop asking and trust your own instinct.

Lesson #4

Too much love will kill you, just as sure as none at all

* I'm writing these blogs sharing my lessons of 2009 because I hope to increase readership and raise the profile of this blog. If you like them or find them useful (and I really hope you do!) please comment, subscribe by RSS or consider sharing the link on Twitter.


Kate said...

Hi Amanda

Just out of curiosity - what sort of help/advice does Ketchup provide?

Keep up the good work!


Amanda said...

Hi Kate,

Thanks for commenting! :)

Ketchup is comprised of a number of component companies each with years, sometimes generations, of industry experience in their given field.

They can provide branding, product design, website design, design for manufacture, international sourcing for manufacture or component supply..

Check out their website if you're interested:

I hope you find what you need!

All the best,