The ability to listen to others is not, typically, the entrepreneur’s greatest strength.
If you’re the oldest guy in the shop, if you’re the one others turn to when they want to hear about the “old days,” it’s time to find yourself an even older grizzly.
When I first bought Mackay Envelope, I was twenty-six. My lawyer, the one I hired after I fired the young hotshot who told me not to buy the envelope company, was sixty. My accountant was fifty-eight, and my banker would admit to being seventy, but I think he was closer to eighty. They didn’t know a thing about the envelope business, but they didn’t need to. They had seen enough business problems in their lifetimes to be able to deal with anything imaginable without knowing the ins and outs of my particular industry.
Though everything that happened to me in my first five years of business was new to me, nothing was new to them. And even when I didn’t take their advice—and often I didn’t—they were a calming and reassuring influence. And that’s something every businessperson, novice or experienced, has need of from time to time.
I’m a bit past twenty-six now and getting closer to old-timer status myself, but if I learned anything from those old-timers, it was that I didn’t have to shoulder the whole load alone. There are a lot of qualified advisers out there to help… if we only ask them. Try it sometime. Thinking of adding a new product line? Considering relocating your plant? Afraid to take a strike, but feel in your gut you should? Making an acquisition? You’re not the first person who’s had to wrestle with those problems. Ask an old grizzly. You may have to listen more than you talk, but that won’t hurt you either.
Excerpted from Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
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