"Don't take advice from someone who hasn't had your kind of trouble," said Sydney J. Harris. Advice often carries a negative connotation, because it's predominantly given by an unwanted source. Yet how many times have you sought out those you respect and admire to hear their thoughts on your business or personal development? More than six years ago, I began documenting advice from the hundreds of meetings, conferences, books, and discussions I've absorbed, totaling 175 pages in Evernote and Google Docs. When acted upon, these are the best pieces of advice I've ever received:
- Get a professional team in place immediately. As I was about to launch Wendell Charles Financial, a highly educated and successful mentor of mine explained the benefits of paying professionals to execute the business essentials. He said, "Do what you are uniquely qualified to do, and outsource the rest." Of course, I didn't listen, and made the classic mistake of trying to do everything myself initially—accounting, tax filings, business formation, marketing, sales, event planning, etc. After realizing that efficiency was too low and stress was too high, I accepted that I was unable to do it all. The peace of mind, speed of task completion, and client introductions via the service providers (an unintended consequence) has been well worth it. If your current capital flow is not sufficient to pay attorneys, accountants, and marketers, you should consider taking them on as equity partners or issue convertible notes to a private investor. It will be worth it.
- Study extraordinary people. Education is not an institution that you attend or a degree that you earn; education is a lifestyle. It's an ongoing, infinite pursuit of knowledge in order to contribute to the world's advancement. My father, a successful small business owner, taught me at a very young age that you can exponentially speed up your development by studying the habits of high-level achievers. When he gives me advice, I know it's thoroughly researched in addition to his experience. Determination, consistent discipline, and enthusiasm for excellence are all recurring characteristics of these people. They are often as philanthropic as they are accomplished, and the insight you will gain from observing them is priceless. Reading Malcom Gladwell's Outliers, Jim Collins's Good to Great, and Napoleon Hill's Think & Grow Rich will help adjust your thought patterns or reaffirm concepts you've already internalized. I also listen to TED talks and audio books via audible.com while driving or waiting in an airport. One of my more creative methods is using ifttt to sends the links of tweets I "favorite" directly to a specific Evernote folder.
- Keep a consistent daily rhythm. Rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. Ups and downs are inevitable when starting a business, but the key is to maintain consistent effort on a daily basis despite initially invisible results. My good friend John Alexander used this theory throughout his baseball career where he won a Division III collegiate national championship, played professionally overseas, and had a stint in the Atlanta Braves organization. John's successful baseball career was due to his discipline, patience, and even his willingness to give it a rest occasionally. As someone who has the tendency to do the exact opposite, I proactively schedule gym, social, and personal time similar to the way I schedule my professional hours. Find a pattern that works for you and don't let wins or losses influence the execution of your crucial daily activities.
Evan Kirkpatrick is the founder and CEO of Wendell Charles Financial, a private wealth management firm. He has run the investment division of a boutique wealth management and corporate benefits company. @evankirkpatrick