There are a lot of people calling themselves small business experts these days.
It seems like everywhere you turn, another "expert" has found the secret to small business success and is hawking it in the form of a book, a DVD, or a seminar.
The real irony is that it's a challenging time for small businesses, and the small business community needs the advice of legitimate and experienced entrepreneurs more than ever. But with so many small business experts in both print and online mediums, separating bona fide authorities from the wannabes can be a challenge. Even big name media outlets sometimes offer advice from individuals who lack real business credentials.
Before you act on the advice of any small business expert, it's imperative for you to research the individual's background and business experience. The more you know about small business experts and their attributes, the easier it is to identify valuable nuggets of advice when you encounter them. At a minimum, here are some of the characteristics you should look for in an authentic expert:
- Real-world experience. One of the most crucial traits of any small business expert is real-world experience. Lots of people wax poetic about how simple it is to dominate the small business landscape. But unless they have the experience to back it up, their words have little or no value apart from their academic significance.
- Small business enthusiasm. Life is too short to take advice from people who lack your level of enthusiasm. The best small business experts love small companies and are energized by working with entrepreneurs. If an expert seems like he's more passionate about his own career than small businesses, move on.
- Depth & breadth. Most small business experts specialize in one or two areas, but also possess a broad knowledge base when it comes to entrepreneurial topics. While depth of knowledge is fine, it's also important for the expert to understand the big picture and how various the pieces of the small business puzzle fit together.
- Focus. If you have the opportunity to talk directly with the expert, ask him to describe his area of expertise. Legitimate experts are highly focused individuals who are very specific about the contributions they bring to small businesses. If the expert has difficulty describing his focus is probably a sign that he lacks expertise.