When you’re looking for advice, consider the source

Me in my office at UF Innovate | The Hub. (Photo taken by UF Innovate’s marketing team)

Last month my new book went up for sale on Amazon. I self-published (with the help of my good friend and economic development colleague, Rollie Cole). It has a lengthy title — Facilities Management for Business Incubators: Practical Advice and Information for Design, Construction and Management of 21st Century Business Incubation Facilities. (I know, I know; I’ve never been at a loss for words!)

It’s not exactly going to be a best-seller; I also know that. The world of business incubators encompasses approximately 7,000–9,000 total programs/facilities around the world, and about 1,600–1,800 programs/facilities in the United States. I’ll be lucky to sell 500 copies, total. That won’t put me on The New York Times Best Sellers List.

But I enjoyed writing it. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over the past 40+ years, and if it helps one person, one program, then I’ve fulfilled what I set out to do — provide decent advice that is helpful.

You see, the magic sauce here is AGE. I’m old. Okay, I’m medium old, but I still have plenty of scars and plenty of failures, successes, good times, bad times and tough times. I have plenty of experience in my field of business incubation, and I’ve worked with literally hundreds — if not thousands — of entrepreneurs.

Actually, the magic sauce is AGE plus EXPERIENCE. Because I am medium old, I’ve had time to get experienced, and I’m WILLING to share what I’ve learned. I feel the need to “give back” to help others who don’t have that experience, the desire to assist individuals who can’t make a decision because they’ve never made it before, and the will to provide information to people who are on the verge of making a mistake because of a unique situation (usually one that I’ve already experienced).

It’s not all altruistic. I do enjoy helping for the sake of helping, and I delight in sharing my experiences because, well, people seem to appreciate it, seem to need the help, and seem to think I do have something worth saying. (C’mon! I do get SOME feedback like that! After all, I’ve got the magic sauce: age, experience, and willingness to share.)

Yes, some people are old and don’t have a lot of experience or don’t seem to be “outstanding in their field.” (Yes, yes, I know the old joke about “that’s how they found me — out, standing in my field.” Haha.) I guess I’m suggesting that I am old, willing to help and have the experience worthy of sharing because I am outstanding in my field. (Granted, it’s a small field.)

Some people are much younger than me but have “been there, done that” as well, and they can provide very valuable insight. But I also know plenty of people who like to dispense advice, when, in fact, they really should not advise anyone.

I also know people who have great experiences, but they don’t want to help anyone; they’ve had enough of dealing with others.

So, yes, people’s experiences vary — and people’s willingness to help varies. I happen to be (medium) old, “outstanding” because of my experience, and willing to give advice. (To be clear, my editor is adding in these tidbits about me being outstanding; I thought it was clear without my saying it. 😉 )

The magic sauce is why I felt compelled to write my latest book. My advice is available in book form to those who don’t have a front-row seat of my life (or know my email address).

That said, I’m consistently surprised at those who ask me for advice or the benefit of my experience; I have to say, the “new generation” is highly underrated. Those individuals, who are between the ages of 25–40, often inquire about client management, facilities management, recruiting clients, educational programs and other facets of the business incubation world.

They are definitely not too proud or too “know-it-all” to ask for help; in fact, they are consistent in their desire to do a great job and their willingness to listen and learn. The so-called “millennials” or “Gen-Z” people are getting it done — and they seem willing to seek help and accept advice when needed.

I’ve often heard it said that “Banks only lend money to companies who don’t need it.” I’ve heard a similar saying about advice: “Advice is only worth what you pay for it.” I’m sure that advice about advice (hmmm… a bit of redundancy there) is certainly valid in many circumstances, as when people give casual opinions about something or people “think they know more” than someone else and thus feel compelled to show off their knowledge.

Also, let’s face it. We tend to value things more when they “cost us dearly” (or at least cost us something). Anyway, that’s the reasoning my father gave me when I turned 16; I wanted a car, and he told me I had to pay at least half the price. That way, his reasoning went, I would take better care of it and have more respect for keeping it clean, since “I had some skin in the game.” He was correct!

But as I said earlier, advice can be tricky, whether you pay for it or get it for free. (I’m not suggesting that pay for my advice by buying a book, by the way. You could follow my blog here or on Medium.)

Whether you’re looking for advice from me or someone else, whether you’re looking for free advice or looking to pay, search for people with experience, know-how, and sincerity.

Look for the givers. Look for those with enough scars to truly give you the voice of experience. Look for people you respect and who at the same time respect you for asking for advice.

Get advice from those you trust and from those who trust you to make the right decisions. In the end, it’s not the advice that will get you where you’re going; it’s what you do with the advice. Good luck!

Mark Long has long experienced the intricacies of business incubation, acceleration, coworking spaces, makerspaces and other entrepreneurial assistance venues around the world. He shares his experience, outlook, background knowledge, studies, and observations in regular posts at the IncubatorBlogger. Feel free to follow him there — or follow him and UF Innovate right here.

University of Florida Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem that moves research discoveries from the laboratory to the market, fostering a resilient economy and making the world a better place. Based at one of the nation’s leading research institutions, UF Innovate comprises four organizations: Tech Licensing, Ventures and two business incubators, Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub. Within the UF Office of Research, the three organizations form a comprehensive system to take technologies from the lab to the public, bringing together the five critical elements in the “innovation ecosystem”: facilities, capital, management talent, intellectual property and technology-transfer expertise.

Originally published at http://incubatorblogger.wordpress.com on August 2, 2019.

Includes Tech Licensing, Ventures, and two business incubators, The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. We are an innovation ecosystem.