The best and worst places to seek professional advice

One of the scariest aspects of running your own business is that, ultimately, you are responsible for everything – and yet you don’t know everything. We asked small business owners (SBOs) where they go for advice.

5 min read

be your own boss

From friends and family, to ex-colleagues and business advisors, neighbouring businesses and professional bodies, advice is always available to small business owners, whether you want it or not.

And sometimes, you really don’t want it…

“I had somebody working for me on a part-time basis,” says Allen, a Violin Repairer from Sydney. “He is a very experienced violin maker and he’s always passing on advice… often without being prompted.”

In fairness, it might be great advice, but there are good and bad ways to deliver it, and some sources can be trusted more than others.

Getting professional help

As a mobile games developer, David from Adelaide sometimes needs specialist advice, and he gets it from his ‘official’ mentor.

“We recently signed up to Fixy, an organisation that works with small businesses, and we got a mentor through them – James Marshall, who works in the government for the Department for Trade and Investment.

“The Department of Innovation and Skills also sends through small-business support articles on a weekly basis,” he adds.

Super groups

For Travel Agent Barbara, the most productive places for advice have come from the various business groups she belongs to – groups that are either in the same line of business, or in the same geographic area, as they share similar industry or local issues.

“We’re part of a group called ATAC, the Australian Travel Agents Co-Op,” Barbara explains. “I’ve been with them for quite a few years now. We actually mentor other agents in the group.”

“We often ring each other,” she adds, “and we also have a closed Facebook page… if we’ve got issues, we can talk amongst ourselves on that. That’s really helpful. And I’m also President of a business group here in Tewantin.”

Business support

It doesn’t have to be an organised group, though – sometimes you can just seek help from other people in your line of work.

Before opening her own singing studio, Casey was assisted by her own singing coach.

“My voice coach helped me initially because she ran her own studio,” Casey explains. “So I had a lot of conversations with her about how it was done. She was very supportive.”

Business support is also available online – Reckon has a wealth of advice available to its customers.

“We have something called the Reckon Training Academy,” explains Sam Allert, CEO for Reckon. “As a client of Reckon, you not only get access to all the videos about our software, but also video tutorials in other things, such as Microsoft Excel, courses with tips on social media, and courses on setting up a website.”

A little help from your friends

Mobile make-up artist Laura gets her advice from a friend, who also runs a small business.

“My best friend runs a candle business called Pretty Frank, which has handmade soy wax candles. She and I are kind of each other’s network,” Laura says.

“She’s probably the closest thing to a mentor because we bounce everything off each other every day.”

Listen to your clients

It may sound obvious, but sometimes it’s simply best to go straight to the source: your customers!

“It’s important to understand where your clients are coming from,” says Laurie, who runs a drama academy. “You have to look at things from their perspective.”

“I think probably the greatest questions I’ve ever learnt to ask my clients are ‘How can I help you?’ and ‘How can I resolve this?’”

It’s great advice… but then there’s plenty out there. You just need to know where to find it.

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