One of my favorite classes at CU has been Projects in Entrepreneurial Companies taught by Sharon Matusik. In the class, students are paired with a local startup to complete a small project and understand the entrepreneurial process more fully. I worked with Ubooly doing some research and building a node.js dashboard. It was a ton of fun and I learned a lot. Every week, the MBA students in the class met to talk about everyone’s insights. One that I found particularly salient from a classmate was about knowing when to listen or ignore advice.
In the early stages of a startup, the smart entrepreneurs seek advice from anyone who will listen. They understand the more feedback they get from customers, mentors, and partners, the faster they’ll know if the idea has value. However, this feedback can often leave entrepreneurs confused with conflicting advice from smart people.
The key is to remember that no one else has thought about your business more than you. To force myself to think through the problem of advice overload, I’ve created the following list:
- Test everything
- Don’t just blindly take every idea shared by mentors or advisers. Luckily, technology allows us to do metric driven testing easily. Regardless of whether you like a piece of feedback or not, put it to the test. Here is a list of helpful testing resources (please recommend others in the comments below):
- Ask clarifying questions
- If a piece of advice doesn’t click in your mind, ask thoughtful clarifying questions to make sure the other party understands any trade-offs that may exist.
- Listen to common feedback
- Sometimes you’ll get the same feedback from multiple people, if this is the case, listen up. Recognize the fact that you may be unconsciously ignoring something that is critical to your business.
- Trust your gut
- Like I said, you know your business better than anyone. If something doesn’t jive, don’t be afraid to ignore it. Remember that even the smartest person is probably only right 50% of the time.
Sorting through the noise problem only gets worse as your company grows. Soon you’ll have investors, employees, board members, and advisers that all have a different opinion about your company. At the end of the day, you are the captain of the ship and are responsible if it sinks or floats.