Business Advice

The #1 secret to taking advice as a business owner

- June 24, 2024 6 MIN READ


As a business owner, knowing how to handle advice is essential. There’s a lot of advice out there, but not all of it leads to success – some can even be detrimental to your business, explains Michael Emanuele President of Entrepreneur’s Organization Queensland and Managing Director of ZEN Group.

The secret? Truly listening to ‘advice’ and where it is coming from, and critically assessing whether it applies to your circumstances or not.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a peer run business support group which spans 17,000+ members in more than 60 countries, has a unique approach to advice giving and receiving. Instead of sharing ‘advice’ or what members think someone should do in a given situation, they share an example of a time when they as business owners experienced something similar and how they approached the situation. By sharing examples and what they learnt, the recipient can assess if this approach might suit their situation, and can glean any relevant insights, learning from those who have walked the path before them.

Five founders share their tips for taking advice as a business owner

1. It’s not about you

“I had done a great job of communicating the vision and painting the long term picture but the leadership team were struggling to connect with it. And then I realised I was an ENFP personality type and they were predominantly ISTJ personalities [under the Myers Briggs personality profiles]. My big picture, creative thinking personality meant I could easily see the big picture but they were more focused on the detail and how they were going to get there.

So, I changed the way I communicated the vision to suit their personality rather than mine, and focused on the steps to get there more than the end result.

Likewise, when they were giving me advice or giving me direction, I would take things very personally.  That’s because of the strong F [for feelings] in my personality type. They weren’t trying to offend me, they were just being very black and white in their delivery because of their natural style.

As a business owner, the need to take advice and give advice is essential for success. My number one secret to taking advice is that it’s not about me, it’s about them!  I always think about who is giving the advice, think about their personality profile and then take that into account when interpreting what they are saying and how they are saying it, before then responding in a way that helps me connect with that individual and their style.”

~ John Knight, Founder and Managing Director of businessDEPOT and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Queensland Member

2. Embrace openness and humility

 “As a business owner, the single most important secret to effectively taking advice is embracing openness and humility, regardless of your own expertise and achievements. Entrepreneurs often have strong egos, which can drive success but also become a barrier to growth. Acknowledging that we don’t know everything and learning from those who’ve walked the path before us can unlock tremendous potential.

A personal example illustrates this well. Early in my journey with Conscious Healthcare SA, I was introduced to David Bartholomeusz through the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) Adelaide. David, a seasoned entrepreneur and mentor, guided me through a structured framework for tackling business challenges.

At the time, I was grappling with multiple opportunities and felt the pressure to excel in every area. David’s key piece of advice was to harness ‘focus’, we can do anything but we can’t do everything. Likewise his mantra of “done is better than perfect,” resonated deeply with me as I found myself trying to achieve perfection in trying to impress him as he was someone I admired as an entrepreneur. The irony of it all was it all was he was committed to my growth and learning and not attached to the outcome and result which clearly I was. Initially, I was sceptical. I wanted to impress him and felt the need to prove my worth as an entrepreneur. This was likely tied to a sense of imposter syndrome, I know many others ponder that question ‘when have I really made it as an entrepreneur?’.

David encouraged me to follow his 13-week process, which emphasised staying committed to one core area at a time. By applying his advice, I learned the critical importance of focus. Instead of spreading myself thin across various initiatives, I concentrated on completing one project before moving to the next. This approach not only enhanced my productivity but also reduced my stress levels and improved the overall performance of the business.

Through this experience, I realised that taking advice requires a balance of humility and discernment. It’s about recognising the value in others’ experiences and applying their wisdom in a way that aligns with your own vision and goals.”

~ Trevor Keen, Founder of Conscious Healthcare and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Adelaide Member

3. Seek experiences, not advice

“My secret to ‘taking advice’ as a business owner is to not ask for ‘advice’ but to ask for specific experiences another person might have relevant to the area where I need help.

When I was faced with one of the most challenging decisions of my business life, whether to shut my business down or not,  I resisted the temptation to ask others for advice on what I should do.  Instead I sought experiences from others.

My consulting company, the Australian / New Zealand arm of a UK-based business, had been performing poorly for two years, and my UK co-founders were encouraging me to shut the A-NZ business down.  This was not a decision I wanted to make, and I knew that if I asked for ‘advice’ I would get 20 different opinions of what I ‘should’ do.

So I asked a number of other entrepreneurial business owners (fellow members of the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, EO) to share their personal experiences from when they had to close or exit something that they truly cared about.  I was very clear with them all – no advice please.

From hearing all their very different experiences, it became clear to me that I really was committed to the success of my business in this region, and I felt I really hadn’t given it a ‘proper go’, so decided to separate the A-NZ business from the UK, and go it alone.  The decision was so clear to me, and because I hadn’t taken ‘advice’ I could truly own the decision and the way forward.

So now my mantra is…Don’t ask someone what they think I should do, ask them to tell me what they did in a similar situation.”

~ Paul Gordon, Founder and CEO of Catalyze and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Sydney Member

4. Seek advice (or relevant experiences) from those who have achieved what you’re trying to achieve

“Executive Assistant Institute’s growth story is only possible because myself, and my business partner Demi Markogiannaki front-loaded the start with seeking counsel and experience shares from EOers and business leaders that had successfully start and scaled recruitment/resourcing businesses. We learned from their successes, but most importantly, their failures.

Their stories gave Executive Assistant Institute a roadmap as to what to expect, revealing our path to growth and removing a lot of the anxiety from knowing whether or not we were on the right path. It also revealed what pitfalls and traps to avoid.

A mentor once told me that we don’t have enough time to make all the mistakes there are to make. If one is smart, they’ll learn quickly how to learn from their mistakes. But if one is wise, they’ll learn how to avoid making those mistakes; that can be easily avoided with a little bit of research.

As it turns out, everyone has an opinion on everything. And often, those opinions can contradict. I’ve learned that the only opinions that matter are the ones that have successfully walked that path one seeks to walk. You’ll sleep better at night.”

~ Kym Huynh, Founder of Executive Assistant Institute and Entrepreneurs Organization Melbourne member

5. Master the art of listening

“Taking advice as a business owner is an art in itself. The number one secret I’ve found is to truly listen—this goes beyond simply hearing the words. The Chinese character for ‘listen’ (聽) is a perfect illustration of this concept, as it encompasses multiple meanings. Each component of the character contributes to a holistic approach to listening: 耳 (ears to hear), 目 (eyes to see), 一 (undivided attention to focus), 心 (heart to feel), and 忄 (mind to think). These concepts are critical for us as business owners because truly listening involves not just hearing the advice, but also observing non-verbal cues, focusing intently, empathising with the speaker, and thoughtfully considering the information to make well-rounded decisions.

For me, being grounded in facts means I feel most comfortable with advice supported by concrete examples, data, or relevant experiences. This approach ensures that the advice is not just theoretical but applicable and actionable. Last year, we at Ethnolink were exploring the roll-out of a new technology tool to streamline our translation processes. The tool seemed promising on paper, but I wanted to gather insights from other business owners who had first-hand experience with it. I reached out to several owners of other translation companies. Their responses were eye-opening. They shared detailed examples of the tool’s deficiencies. One particular owner even provided data on how the tool’s inefficiencies led to project delays and increased costs.

Armed with these real-life experiences, I was able to make a well-informed decision. We chose to explore alternative solutions that better suited our needs, ultimately saving us from potential setbacks and inefficiencies. Listening in this way—truly understanding and considering the experiences of others—has been instrumental in guiding Ethnolink towards successful outcomes. It’s a reminder that effective advice is not just about hearing but about understanding and integrating those insights into our decision-making processes.”

~ Costa Vasili, Founder and CEO of Ethnolink and Entrepreneurs’ Organization Melbourne Member

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