You don’t sharpen a knife against a sponge

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

You don’t sharpen a knife against a sponge.

I love that expression. It goes beyond the platitudes like there is no I in team, or it takes a village.

To grow—in any area of life—you need people who will help you sharpen your skills and thinking. Who will challenge you constructively. Not just rubber-stamp your ideas and plans.

Years ago, I thought my having a more senior business partner would suffice as an advisory team. Not so. Because we were in the weeds together, we acted like knife against sponge instead of knife against stone.

Without others to “hold up the mirror,” our business plateaued at the limits of our capabilities.

To truly succeed, I needed the strategic guidance of an outside advisory team.

How can you build this team for your business?

Here are a few tips:

  • Mind the gaps.  You want team members who add new perspectives, not duplicate yours.  As Rocky Balboa said, “We got gaps.” Look for people who have expertise you lack.  Maybe you’re good with numbers but not so good with marketing.  Maybe you need legal advice or manufacturing know-how.  Decide what you need and look for those who fill the void.
  • Look inside and outside.  Fellow travelers on your same path have the wisdom of similar experience. Those from other industries have best practices insights that you can apply to innovate your business—not just replicate prior success. Both perspectives are useful.
  • Make it easy.  People will be more willing to help if you make it easy for them to contribute.  For example, they may prefer communicating by phone or email rather than in-person meetings.  Be open to their suggestions of what has worked well for others in the past.
  • Be prepared.  You are asking for time from busy, successful people – don’t waste it.  Have all of the necessary facts at hand and quickly get to the point.  Succinctly define your business goals and challenges and know what advice you seek.
  • Expect and embrace criticism.  You don’t need a bunch of “yes men” (or gal pals) stroking your ego.  Any advisors worth their salt would balk at that role any way.  Seek out the “tough love” provides real value.

Ready to have your knives sharpened …

Want to learn more about Kaufman Business Law? This is the video to watch.