ENTREPRENEURS: Shut up and Listen When you Get the Chance

starting a business

Entrepreneurs: We Don’t Know Everything But Can Learn More When we Listen. Small Business Advice Can Come from Anywhere

I don’t care what kind of business you have if you don’t present it, yourself and/or your documents right, you are almost destined to fail. I learned my greatest lessons from doing business with people in New York. I like to call it “Being NYP” that stands for “New York Prepared.” That means whatever you present, it better be undeniable. In New York, most business people will not give you a 2nd chance if you submit something sub-par.

Small Business Advice Can Come from Anywhere

They will toss it and not respond to you, for the most part, EVER AGAIN. The first line of presentation is your idea. Even if it’s a good one and you are lucky enough to get a pro to advise you for free, TAKE THE ADVICE and don’t make excuses. I prefer to get advice from currently working pros. It just seems they have their finger on the pulse and they are not teaching because they cannot actually DO. This is the reason that many companies don’t like to hire older workers. Many of us are insulted when someone younger (or otherwise) tells us that we are doing something (that we have been doing for years) wrong. Or that there is a new way to do it.

Just the other day a gentleman called me with an idea he had for a magazine. He was all over the place. I kept asking him if he had a business plan, you really don’t nee a FULL plan, something I will talk about later but I asked him if he had mapped out anything. Before he could answer that question he was making excuses telling me why he didn’t need one. Mind you, he’s calling ME for advice.  I also asked him about startup capital. He kept skirting around the questions. I asked him about investors and he didn’t trust anyone. As he went on and on about how he was going to get his business off the ground and getting his team in place, I lost interest and unbeknownst to him, I knew he had already failed.

Small Business Advice Can Come from Anywhere

It sounded like he was confused…. and if he sounds that way to me, how will he handle the business and how will he sound to anyone else that he presents this idea to? He made several common mistakes potential business owners make. They are as follows:

  • Refused to listen to or even act like he was interested in hearing the advice of a pro based on my experience in already DOING what he is trying to do.
  • Shot down every idea I had for him to get his venture off the ground because he already has it all mapped out.  (Why is he talking to me?)
  • Expressed his lack of trust for everyone which makes me wonder if he trusts me OR can HE be trusted.
  • He already knows it all so I already know this is going to be a difficult situation to work in and usually the way you start out is the best indicator of how you will end up. If he won’t listen to me now, he never will.

This is his idea, he doesn’t trust anyone, he wants it done a certain way, he needs my help and/or advice FOR FREE and he has no money? This, mind you, for something that it has taken me almost 15 years to learn. If you put yourself in my shoes, even for two minutes, you can see how this is not going to work for me. What is the chance that you think I will advise someone like this? If you guessed never, you are the winner! What are the chances of me taking his call again? Slim to none. This is just a waste of my time.

Another example: I asked a good friend to write a couple of paragraphs for me for a story. He’s been writing for about 3 decades so he feels, and rightfully so, that he is a professional, HOWEVER, in the entertainment industry, we are driven by yout so someone who may have been a great writer 15 years ago might be IS considered dated today. As an older actor once told me when I was looking for a house to buy and I was looking at his home… “fame is fleeting.” He was right, especially in this industry, but all is not lost if you are an older vet if you are trying to run a young-end business. You have to be willing to depend on the insight of the younger team. At any rate, this gentleman is in his late 50s and I asked him to write a couple of paragraphs about a rap group. I told him I would pay him $150.00. Truth is, I was wrong, I was really doing him a favor and I knew he needed the money. I could have easily gotten a younger person to write it for free.

Small Business Advice Can Come from Anywhere

He was absolutely INSULTED. He and his wife felt I should double the pay. Then he went down his list of previous accomplishments and read me the riot act. I told him never mind and got an intern to do it. I will take some responsibility for that because I should have never approached him about it. Nevertheless, I continued to hear about it for months to come. Finally, one day he called me and told me he was working with a rap producer on some songs. I had to pause and look at my cell phone. Did I just hear this right? I am not one to crush a person’s dreams but I’m thinking, you are almost 60 and you are trying to produce rap songs? I knew that he was having a mid-life (industry) crisis. He knew the industry was done with him and he was desperate.  I could only imagine the 30 to 40-year-old record execs laughing their heads off when he called meetings with them to hear what he was working on. I told him to go in as the manager and not as a producer and he didn’t listen to me. He used his industry tenure to call meetings and they were granted based on his experience. Needless to say, he dug himself in a very deep hole as the same record execs refuse to take his calls now. He called me to complain about it and I said nothing.

To make matters worse….He told me that he needed some “beats” from this 18-year-old kid and he offered him $50.00 for it and the kid laughed. This “kid” is already established and my friend didn’t’ understand why the kid refused to accept his offer when I explained to him this kid was getting thousands from the labels and artists he admitted it was all he could afford and he felt it was all the gig was worth. I then reminded him of our exchange months before and told him that he did the same thing to this LEGITIMATE kid that he said I did to him. He agreed and the issue was never brought up again.

Bottom line, there are those times when we should simply shut up and listen as black entrepreneurs. As we are managing so many tasks it’s easy for us to actually believe that we have all the answers… but we don’t.

Wishing you the Best in your business

Kevin Ross



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