Weeding Out The Noise

Ben Buie | 5/9/13

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.

About the Author

Ben currently works as a contract web developer and business consultant in Boulder, Colorado.

His passion for entrepreneurship led him to study business and learn to code. Although he never anticipated working on the web, Ben has spent the past 9 years learning everything he could about building and operating websites and web assets.

When not at work, Ben spends a lot of his time with family. He is married to a “beautiful” woman and they are raising 4 energetic boys. In his spare time he loves keeping up with technology, playing guitar, eating Sweet Cow ice cream, and painting (although he has very little time for painting these days). Other than that, Ben is a supporter of freedom and liberty, a fluent speaker of Russian, and he tries to be a humble follower of Jesus.

Read more about Ben.