Whilst the rock stars of the entrepreneurial world tend to be the ones who get most of the airplay (for very good reason--they are really impressive), I often wonder if we miss some of the best advice simply because we don't think to ask those less famous for their wisdom.
Last week I had the great pleasure of meeting a man who was the third generation owner of a sausage and ham making business. His name is Edwin, he is 75, at the tail end of his business career and ready to pass the reins to his son.
I asked Edwin for the best advice that he would offer to entrepreneurs starting out today. He thought about this long and hard, and then he quietly said, "this is not a big idea, or flash, or tech, but the thing I have learned the hard way is the importance of learning to listen to your instinct. Most of the biggest mistakes I have made over the years have all come back to me not listening to my intuition".
Sage advice that I agree with wholeheartedly. I love old entrepreneurs like Edwin. In fact I love all business owners who have overcome the odds and proven that they can make a business work.
Is Edwin's advice any less valuable than advice from Richard Branson? Not to me and that is my point. I think that in our hunger to look for words of wisdom from the big end of the entrepreneurial town, we often overlook the mountains of wisdom all around us. All we have to do is reach out and ask.
Every time I meet a business owner that has built a successful business, I ask them for their best piece of advice to help guide me. I have no doubt at all that I been given the best advice imaginable through these encounters, that's why I keep doing it.
It might be the corner store owner, your accountant, the local restaurateur- it doesn't really matter. Reach out and ask them what advice would they give to the 18-year-old version of themselves? You might be very surprised by what they have to say and share.
Being successful in business takes an open (and determined) mind. Smart entrepreneurs are hungry for advice from those who have gone before them, because they realize that by asking the right questions they might avoid making the same mistakes.
Have you got an Edwin that you see every day who could share some wonderful pearls of wisdom if you simply ask? By all means love and embrace the big names of the entrepreneurial world, but let's not forget the everyday business owners who are doing impressive things every day and have probably been doing them for many years.
My advice, find the Edwins close by, take the time to track them down, buy them a coffee and ask them to tell you their story. It will be time well spent for you, and a wonderful mark of respect for them. Everyone wins.