Before I left The ReBuilding Center to work on piddix full-time, I went out to lunch with two friends who both had run their own businesses for several years. I asked about working from home, and whether they had any regrets about leaving a more stable income. The advice and support they offered was invaluable.
One of the challenges of running a business by myself has been the lack of an immediate sounding board. I can't turn to my co-worker and say, "which one looks better," or "what do you think of this new idea?" To compensate, I've gotten pretty good at asking anyone who will listen--from best friends to the man sitting next to me on the airplane--for advice on whatever question has been plaguing me at the moment.
During this process I've come up with two tricks to help get the best advice possible while also not wasting anyone's time.
First, I have a pretty good "elevator" speech that summarizes piddix. This includes:
1. What piddix does.
2. The mission of piddix.
3. My products and pricing.
4. Who my customers are.
5. Who my competition is and how piddix is different.
This summary can be said in anywhere from one to 45 minutes depending on the situation. Once the person has a basic idea of my business, I then ask the one question that I'm wrangling with, which lately has been on the subject of the best ways to grow piddix as a business.
This brings up my second trick:
Ask about your weaknesses and their strengths.
If you are great with color, don't bother someone asking about different combinations--you'll just get advice that you won't necessarily agree with or need. Instead, ask about areas where they are by far the expert.
For example, I went out to dinner recently with a group of High School friends, many of whom have MBAs from fancy-pants universities and have in-depth knowledge of businesses practices. I know piddix pretty well: what images my customers will like, how to write about my products, and so on. But I have never taken a college-level business class. What I wanted to know from them, after they had heard about piddix, were basic business practices for growth; "rules of thumb," if you will, about the best ways to expand into new markets or increase product offerings. Once again the advice was unbelievably helpful, perhaps even more-so since this large group was able to bounce ideas off one another and brainstorm on the spot. Honestly, if I had paid to bring them all together as professional consultants, it would have cost me thousands of dollars. But by having my quick speech and question ready, I received great tips that are shaping the direction of piddix's future.
These amazing groups and individuals--whom I consider my informal Board of Directors--have become an essential part of piddix and I couldn't do it without them.