shutterstock_196849961There are lessons which can be learned only from first hand experience.  If we are wise, there are others which can be taught by and learned from others.  When we can learn from others and gain the wisdom of their experience, we are able to avoid any number of things – from spending our money unwisely to being taken advantage of in business.  Too often, however, we fail to listen to the voices of experience and set aside the words of caution, warning, and wisdom.  We brush off the stories and lessons, the shared confidences and even the blunt “do not do business with that person because…” statements, attributing them to something which won’t happen to us or “sour grapes”.

Part One – P.I.T.A. and TC

Have you ever been asked about a business associate that you didn’t think very highly of?  Did you give an honest response about that person or did you give a politically correct response?  Have you ever had a terrible experience with another company, for convenience let’s call that firm Company P.I.T.A (Pain In the Anatomy Inc).  Perhaps they had “appropriated” some of your intellectual property and passed it off as their own.  When asked about doing business with P.I.T.A. by a trusted colleague (let’s call him TC), you shared the experience.  You state that not only will you not work with P.I.T.A again; you also won’t do business with anyone who does business with them.

Time passes.  You and TC are doing business.  One day on the way to a business meeting TC announces he is teaming up with P.I.T.A.  Wham!  Bam!  Socko!  Right in the gut!

Part Two – Learning to Be in Business

There are first-time stages common to every entrepreneur.  You have to learn about business.  What it means to be IN business.  To RUN a business.  To MANAGE a business.  To OWN a business.  To work ON a business.  To GROW a business. To…

While you are in the early learning stages, making mistakes is inevitable and a right of passage.  It presents so many opportunities for those who are also learning a different lesson:  how to take advantage – knowingly or unknowingly.  Those who are less than competent can deliver less than you need and deserve.  Those who are out to get what they need and want to take advantage can teach you lessons which become very costly.  Making every mistake first hand is unnecessary and a certain path to failure.  You have to be open to learning from other people’s experience – hearing what they are saying – processing the information and valuing it – mining for the nuggets of gold.

You also have to become adept at identifying the gold from the fool’s gold.  Because there will be more “smooth talkers” able to persuade you of how wonderful they are that are great talkers and that is all they are.

Taking a Step Back – The Lesson to Learn

The pattern of smooth talkers which emerges and the lesson that is often ignored, overlooked, or “won’t happen to me” which repeats most frequently for new and early stage businesses, as well as those that have not established a consistent level of revenues, is looking for an easy way to make money without spending money.   The need to generate revenues interferes with the logical decision filters and the “reality” check process that would normally apply to statements that are made to us.  The ability of the smooth talker to give us a positive mood about whatever activity is being discussed is great!  Rah! Rah! The metric however is the REVENUE!

It is hard to judge the credibility of the person with whom you are doing business and the statements which are made.  Perception, emotion, and many other factors come with the lessons.

Here are some factors to weigh in judging the lesson:

  • Frame of reference of the story – is this first-hand experience or is it a friend of a friend of a friend?
  • Credentials – is this a lawyer talking about the law or a dog catcher talking about the law?
  • Time frame – 20 years ago you could do X, today you can do Y.
  • Results – The person has a track record for success which can be demonstrated through clients, articles, books, credentials, references.  There is something which can be seem, touched, demonstrated, not just talked about theoretically.
  • History – What have they already done for you – if you are making a choice between someone who has already delivered on promises — doing business with you and getting you revenues – and an unknown “promise” of the future – see results and credentials above…

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