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My Best Advice About Advice

25/03/2015 14:53 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 10:59 BST

In business, there is no commodity in greater supply than advice. And the demand for it is equally inexhaustible.

Sometimes, great advice is all about timing. What sounds like a cliché for 364 days can be a brilliant insight on the 365th. What's powerful and relevant today can be tired or irrelevant tomorrow.

Every entrepreneur will have been told to do what they are passionate about. But it was only when Stephen Rapoport, the serial entrepreneur and founder-CEO of Pact Coffee, was pondering his fourth business venture that the power of that advice hit home.

"My wife told me to 'stop thinking like an investor, just do the thing that you love.' And I have." explains Rapoport. "This business is driven by a passion and love of coffee, of flavour, of delighting customers. As a result, I have a business many times the size of the others combined."

First, your business must be in the right place before you can really benefit from great advice.

In the early days of Brompton Bicycle, recalls CEO Will Butler-Adams, "we were charging around like headless chickens, trying to sort this and that out but we were going round and round in circles. We needed to get our head out of the mire and think about where we wanted to go."

It was only after the team pulled itself out of this busy-ness that Brompton understood the enormous amount of material and advice that was available to support its growth. "There is nothing we are doing that other people haven't done before," says Butler-Adams. "There are so many companies who have been where we are going."

Most entrepreneurs automatically turn to their peers for advice - nothing beats the words of those who have been there and done it. It's what Adam Sopher, a co-founder of popcorn business Joe & Seph's, describes as "reach and teach - taking advice from others and passing on your knowledge to your peers."

But for many entrepreneurs, the best advice they receive means only one source - their customers.

"Always talk to your customers to improve your products and services," says Rob Law, the founder and CEO of children's luggage company Trunki. "Focus on what your target consumer wants, allow them to help shape your products by listening to feedback, and if your product does not get high rating reviews, make a change. If you know your USP, have a clear plan and regularly review it, you'll stay one step ahead."

For Jane Field, owner of successful mail order business Jonny's Sister, great advice has come from her apprentices. "They are open, fresh and they question things," she says. And they make a real impact: "I have removed products which I was convinced would sell, based on their reactions. They carry zero baggage, have a real 'can do' approach to everything, and bring a freshness that money can't buy."

Whenever and from whomever it comes, get as much good advice as you can. Your task -- and your own genius -- is to turn it into great decisions.

There's a ton of good advice like this and more, in The GREAT way to grow Guide, in which small businesses owners share their best advice.

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