EOW Reflections 22/12/2023

3 Wise Wo/men can help you thrive in 2024.


Oscar Wilde said: I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It’s never of any use to oneself.

In this instance I disagree with Oscar. When you’re setting up, growing or running a business the right advice, at the right time, for the stage your business is at, can be a life saver and the difference between surviving and thriving. It can get you out of all sorts tight spots and help you avoid pitfalls. It can stop you failing, throwing in the towel and to avoid the mental health issues that small business owners are increasingly struggling with. The difficulty can be working out what’s good advice.

In my experience three wise wo/man are the key. They aren’t likely to come carrying Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh but carefully chosen their gifts will help you see the wood for the trees, plan ahead and build.  Gifts like wisdom/experience, practical application, and acumen (the mentor, the business adviser and the accountant) can be invaluable.

Your mother may be your biggest fan and wise beyond her years, but she loves you unconditionally, so she’ll always think your ideas are brilliant. It’s mainly information and support you’re after here, not approbation. You need someone who will discuss, debate, question, help you analyse the why, what, who, where, when, and can bring their experience to bear. That’s the mentor.

Then there’s the practical adviser who helps you with the how: how do you translate all that analysis and strategic thinking and planning into doing?

And the money person keeps you on the straight and narrow with all the financial details at the ready. The chances are you went into business because of a passion for something rather than a passion for accounts. Business acumen isn’t just about tax and VAT. It’s about having a clear picture at any point in time of what’s going out and coming in, how you can keep your cashflow above water, and what needs chased up for payment when. The finances need to be reviewed regularly, at least monthly. The right money person can help you think about what you can usefully do with any money you have rather than simply leave it in an account, and about how to assess the risks you face and how you work out which you think are worth taking. At which point your creative juices will be flowing again and you can circle back to the mentor.

There was research several years ago (too long ago to recall by whom) that showed that businesses are more likely to be successful if they have good advisors. It does help if your advisers understand the sector you’re working in, the region, the stage and size of your business as well as your aspirations. Your advisers are part of your team but, as your business needs change as the business develops, periodically you may want to consider whether you need a change of adviser. Great advisers recognise that, and come bearing even more gifts in the form of introductions to people who can help you take the next steps for your business better than they can.

It may feel that, after the tough year small businesses have been through and the challenges still ahead, there’s no slack in the system to pay for the right advice at the right time for the stage you’re at, but there’s brilliant help available for free, at very little cost or through schemes that are funded by Government. It’s not always a case of not being able to afford your three wise wo/men, but rather not being able to afford to do without them. Here’s to a productive and successful 2024.