Posted: Mon 11th Jan 2021
It started with the sheep. Well, the path to becoming an Enterprise Nation adviser did for me after I became a member in 2020. I was one of the advised before I became an adviser. I wanted to try out receiving advice from someone interesting and to find out what it is like to be an adviser.
Her service is related to internal and corporate communications, an old speciality of mine, but not one in which sheep had hitherto appeared. I found Caroline - who fittingly messaged me back with sheep-related puns - delightful to talk with and I learned about her business and that, like me, she "really believes in what they [Enterprise Nation] do".
Caroline inspired me not to be sheepish about applying to become an adviser, so I did. I like the fact that there is a one-stop shop of over 12,000 professionals willing to advise people on an array of business topics. I like helping people and I am conscious that people need help currently rather more than usually.
If you network as much as I do, you'll know that free advice sessions of 15, 20, 30 minutes and an hour are often offered by professionals. However, you don't have that one-stop shop and not everyone puts their money where their mouths are by having professional indemnity insurance, which Enterprise Nation insists on. So thanks, Enterprise Nation. Thanks to you I am better insured, and a little poorer.
As it happens, taking that insurance was on my distant to-do list anyway. Frankly, when giving or receiving advice, I like knowing that it is in place and the adviser has taken their role seriously.
Once I was signed up, it didn't take long for me to receive my first approach for advice. Exciting! It was from an online luxury goods seller. When the call came, it was great for both of us. Certainly that is what the lady concerned said of her experience later in a recommendation!
We took an hour to talk and I was able to give a myriad of tips, big and small, that could help refresh her online business presence, and in particular to leverage her own story and values much more into the front of the business. I learned that I can offer value in this scenario and I am not going to be letting Enterprise Nation down.
I wasn't expecting a confidence boost from signing up as an adviser, but there it was. That was my first lesson learned from becoming an adviser: try it as it might help your confidence and self-esteem.
My second lesson came from my second session of giving advice, this time from a gentleman setting up a novel virtual consultancy. The lesson there was, as an adviser, you need to talk within your comfort zone.
As we spoke, I realised I was adding value as I was talking to his needs and from my strengths. I was described as a "master storyteller" by Enterprise Nation recently (which makes me smug, I am only human). The point is that in both advice scenarios the client was not using and telling their own story online to make themselves and their business more engaging.
My second client charmingly reinforced this by saying he'd chosen me as my adviser profile seemed more 'authentic'. I had indeed written it as an outpouring of my thoughts and values, and not as an advert designed to showcase how slick I can be.
Immediate Future, a social media agency I respect, has been saying this a lot: consumers increasingly crave authenticity. They want to be able to know and trust those whose products or services they are considering, at a time when the currency of trust is at something of a low.
Even before I became an adviser, I was worried that I might become overloaded with requests for free advice. It is too early for that, but I have resolved this by realising I can simply schedule as I need to and create a waiting list, if I have to!
But if you are contemplating becoming an adviser and you are determined to help, you shouldn't let this sort of thing hold you back. Also, and being authentic once more, a lot of advisers will have enlisted hoping their advice sessions will be an introduction to new business.
I am no exception, and it is a reasonable motivation, so long as you advise to help the client and not yourself. It is a probably fairly hidden reason to sign up, but I see no reason not to be open about it, and if you seek out an adviser and they start selling to you, especially early in a call, you probably have the wrong adviser.
As 2021 begins, I am just two advice sessions into being an Enterprise Nation adviser. I'd like to reflect on this again in a few months to share what else I have learned, but I can close on one more tip to current and future advisers.
You may think you have signed up to offer people advice for perhaps 30 minutes or an hour. If you are to do it right, you need to spend more time than that looking at what the person asking for advice does and how they do it. I did that research ahead of both my sessions, and if I hadn't, they would have been far less useful. I consider that to be part of the commitment.
Happy new year for 2021 and, with Enterprise Nation's permission, I hope to be baa-ck with further reflections at a later date.
Darren Weale is a trusted Enterprise Nation adviser who specialises in PR and marketing. If your small business has a story he might enjoy telling, connect with him today. _Inspired by Darren's own story and have expertise to share? Become an adviser now!