Most of you know that my posts are generally inspired by real-life experiences, and this edition is no different. On recent business trips, I was reminded of several pieces of advice that I have been given over the years, and I feel compelled to pass them along.

I don’t mean to be ironic, but the first bit of advice is to be mindful of where you get your advice. In the airport today — one that I find myself in several times per month — I stopped to get my shoes shined.

A person’s shoes are one of the first things I make mental note of. The type, quality, age, shine and general appearance of one’s shoes will tell you so much about them. Coming from a military family, it was instilled early in my life. I sat in the chair next to a particular shoeshine professional who, to my recollection, has been at this airport in this spot for at least five years. I’d guess he is around 30 years old. The first thing I noticed was that he was in tennis shoes. Now, I believe that any good shine man should be in good shoes that are shined to the hilt, not only because of the military mentality that was instilled in me, but because this is his main form of advertisement and display of credibility. My father always told me, “Never trust a man who does not trust himself.” Have you ever seen someone wearing both a belt and suspenders?

Anyway, here is the kicker (no pun intended); he proceeded to tell his customer, who was sitting just next to me, all the best bets for the NCAA tournament. He was absolutely convinced that he had all the “ins” and the point spreads and the locks for betting and winning. He even offered what he called the “lock of the day.” The customer listened intently, asked questions and really got involved in the discussion. Now, I truly believe that this man had good intentions. But let’s be honest. If he had these “locks” and was laying all the lumber, would he be shining shoes in an airport? Don’t get me wrong. He was a skilled shoe shiner and he may love what he does for a living, but it is just that — his living. He is not there passing the time while his millions collect interest in offshore accounts.

My point is this: No matter what someone tells you they believe or the amount of conviction in their voice, it does not make them an expert with your money. Dealers, think about this when vendors walk into your office with “advice.” Are they there because they have to be or because they want to be? Are they already successful with strong credibility? Or are they just pulling magic from their vendor bag and flashing a snazzy PowerPoint presentation? Do they possess the expertise they claim with a list of clients who can vouch for them? Be aware of the “experts” who are merely creating entertaining rhetoric that will not translate into revenue for you.

My next piece of advice is to watch what you say when you don’t know who is around you. For example, I don’t post on social media which stores I am planning to visit, where I just left, what deals I just closed or lost, etc. I can, however, literally follow several companies on any of the social sites and see where they are headed, to whom they are going to pitch or where they just left. Heck, I could just start cold calling those stores they post about and earn some business I may have never known existed before.

I was in a hotel restaurant a few weeks ago when a crew of guys sat down at the table next to me. They proceeded to talk all about their company, what they are doing next, all the typical war stories about how good they are and how management is not nearly as smart as they are, etc. This was not unlike what I experienced out on the “point” when I first started selling cars; I called it the “training session.” In any case, this crew continued on for more than an hour. As fate would have it, they are a competitor of ours. I gained more information in that hour than you could imagine.

You just never know who could be nearby and overhearing your conversation. It may seem trivial at the time, or just conversation, but you never know how important that trivia may be to the guys and gals at the next table. Your brand, your store and your business are just that — yours. Keep it yours by always being mindful of your surroundings. There are plenty of us weak sticks out there that will look for any advantage —and take it if offered.

Bill Wittenmyer Guest Post Blogger for AutoSuccess Magazine, April 15, 2014