In business it’s quicker and cheaper to learn from other people’s mistakes

I’ve listened to a lot of business advice and had to disregard most of it. Not because of my own superior knowledge, but because the advice was from those who had not truly been in business. The earliest advice was to find something that no one else was selling and then sell it myself; I would be made. It never seemed to occur to the uninvited adviser that lack of demand may be why it was not being supplied in the first place.

I also found that most business advice was based on ideal trading conditions, when proper hourly rates could be achieved and stock valued at its resale price. If you couldn’t achieve these optimum returns, you would be better off getting paid employment, the advice went. And then came recession, and no one could get other employment. As someone in business who has made lots of mistakes, if you’ve got no income generating alternatives, you get the best hourly rate you can. And as for stock, if nobody wants it and you can’t sell it at the price you originally wanted, then get the best price you can. Some cash in your pocket is better than none.

Stick with what you know is quite sensible business advice, but don’t limit yourself on what you know. I read of someone, I think selling marketing services, who had to wait while his potential client was on the phone seeking a decorator to paint the outside of his house. Failing to find one, the client asked the salesman if he knew a good decorator – and the salesman said that he wasn’t bad. He got the painting job and moved out of selling marketing services.

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