Published: Sep 28, 2016 12:00:00 PM

black-trees.pngI have held many jobs in many industries. Interaction with business-owners is the connective thread between them. In the purest sense, I educate these business-owners market, sell, deliver, and grow their businesses.

I've worked at my current company for nearing five years now.

Imagine that: for the amount of time it takes somebody to complete high school—longer, considering there's no summer vacation in business—I've been speaking to people about their businesses.

All day. Every day.

There are certain maniacs that own businesses that would rather self-destruct than conceive they made a mistake.

Think back. How did we arrive at a point where advice, perhaps even vaulted within the architecture of education, certain indviduals bristle and snap their jaws at a helping hand, even a solution. We lack this fundamental. We were not taught giving, and helping, and assisting, and caring about our peers when we were taught math and writing in school. We were taught where to stick the knife.

Now, instead, we have to devote nights and weekends to learn this skill: how to productively deliver critical advice. It’s rarely a part of our professional training.

Context: between June, 2012 and March, 2013, my job required me to speak to exactly half of the new customers purchasing the higher-tiered products my company offered.

Considering current customer base is roughly 15,000 at the time of this writing in September, 2016, it's obvious I've spoken to a great number of business owners, CEOs, IT department heads, marketing VP's, sales managers, interns, and "the girl in charge of the social media account / trash can-emptier" -types in my lengthening career in software, marketing, and teaching.

Even then, when it wasn't my job, I pointed out easy fixes for businesses when I spoke with them on the phone. It was the equivalent of a mechanic telling a car-owner not to use ox-blood as an engine coolant. I wasn't pointing out a mega-fauna beast-cat to a fellow neanderthal probably wouldn't save my compatriot, considering how fast tigers move. Nevertheless, I'm quite certain pointing out an issue with a website, with marketing, or with a company's sales methodology, it's not too late to dodge lightly to the side and avoid that slow bullet.

But the issue remains: so few seeking advice are willing to accept advice, solicited or otherwise. Can you imagine why?

Because they've done all the small stuff already. To make further improvements now means they were either tragically blind and didn't notice the shortcoming, or they're pridefully stubborn: aware, but unwilling to admit change was necessary ages ago.

Larger moves are required for greater change. Larger moves are a step into the unknown. Going off the map is not where a business wants to be. Here thar be beasties.

There're entire support communities created to catch you, not when you have to leap, but when you have to walk, and it’s never too late to change because:

  • You can always walk back
  • You’re an adult

The grading curve's legacy from adolescence narrowed not only our ability to self-assess, but to learn from one another in harmony. It instead made us terrified of failure, lest an Illinois nun beat the filth out of us to a comedic degree.

Natural talent is celebrated. Watch a brilliant touch in a soccer game leading to a booming goal, and you’d think these players were just born that way. Moments of visible triumph are respected and celebrated. Their day-to-day learning process is not celebrated.

While it may require tact we do not yet fully command as a global community, we can become more whole by pointing and critiquing one another with goodness in our hearts.

In my consulting work years with business owners, the toughest task was “making the horse drink,” as they say.

The most successful businesses lap advice right up. They're committed. They want to transform their business. They are quite aware of how they can apply a technique or a bit of software to improve a shortcoming. They recognize a need to change. To them, our conversation is part of addressing and fixing a problem. Others find their problem's fix in a different path.

And I take no offense at that. I'm capable of offering advice to any scenario. I'm not selling a product because I'm not selling anything.

Maybe this business owner just needs an active Trello board to keep them focused on an important writing task? Another maybe notices their website's graphic design is a little weak, so I can offer they start creating images in Canva instead of MS Paint?

The agencies that recognize the consulting as a means to improve their entire business model though? They are:

  • Self-critical
  • Constructive
  • Brave enough to change

Meanwhile, others are led, but will they drink before they die on their feet / hooves? Some are fussy. They aren't comfortable. Perhaps I didn't communicate the need to drink water clearly enough to them? It haunts me. Maybe it was a case of wrong place / wrong time? I can't change their minds until I can change their perspective.

It remains a negotiation, sometimes lasting for months.

Some will talk instead of act, holding onto the thought that if they delay long enough, a rip in the universal spacetime will clarify their intrinsic talent to me, or God, or whomever, and in a quantum break, they won't have to admit the million erroneous micro-decisions they’ve made thus far.

Suddenly, this conversation isn't about business, marketing, or selling. It's a different game now. It's an ideological game.

The person would prefer the clarity of self-destruction, mastery of their own fate, to the thought that they could survive with some modern equivalent to lessened honor.

-- Alex Crumb
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