Getting good advice is critical for any entrepreneur and fortunately there’s plenty of advice to go around. Unfortunately, not all advice is worth listening to. Angel investor Allen Morgan (@allenmorgan) summed it up in a recent Tweet: “It’s a power law relationship: for entrepreneurs, >90% of the advice worth heeding comes from <10% of the advice givers.”
The reality is that entrepreneurs should not listen to the bulk of advice that comes their way. Yet, good advice from smart people can be an invaluable asset when trying to navigate your most pressing questions, from how many board members to have, to how much money to raise in Series A, or how to build a monetization strategy.
The key to getting advice boils down to knowing how to filter the good from the bad. Here are four simple ways to weed out the 90% of advisors that you should ignore and focus on the best advice for your situation:
1. Stick to your core values
If you don’t have a clear vision for where you are headed as a founder or startup, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate the advice you get. I’ve seen too many people change direction with every new piece of advice they hear. Before you can really take in advice, you need to have a strong sense of your core values. Then, you can weigh each bit of advice within the framework of your own convictions.
For example, the core values of Twitter’s management helped guide them through the monetization question. Countless experts and pundits were pushing them to monetize via relatively obvious examples like paid premium products or CPM ads. Yet, Twitter took the time to come up with a native monetization model that is not only much better for the user experience, but is also more scalable in the long run. Twitter would be a far different experience today had their management team jumped on the first bit of advice they heard.
2. Listen to people who listen
People who give the best advice are good listeners. They try to understand your specific situation first, rather than instantly spouting off their words of wisdom without any context. Turn to people who ask good questions and seem genuinely interested in the particulars of your question or challenge.
Additionally, you should pay close attention to those individuals who refrain from giving you advice at times because they outright admit they aren’t sure or don’t have the right expertise. Such people will be far more trustworthy in future situations than those who dispense advice just for the sake of feeling important.
3. Change/expand advisors as you grow
Someone who gave you great advice last year could well be a trusted resource in the future, however you need to be cognizant that your needs change over time. Most advice givers are helpful in certain phases of the startup lifecycle, but very few are experts in every area or challenge you face.
For example, a mentor who helps you navigate early-stage product questions may not necessarily be the right person to ask about HR issues as your company grows to 100 people. Again, the most trustworthy advisors will let you know right away if they feel a certain situation is out of their realm of expertise.
4. The final decision is always up to you
There is no standard process for making a good decision. In some cases, you may need to talk to ten different people and weigh each option carefully. In other cases, the right direction will hit you instantly. In most, if not all cases, you need to trust your gut.
No matter how many advisors you talk to, the most important lesson to getting good advice is to never forget that you are running the show. Mentors and advisors can help you build your opinions, but they should never make decisions for you. Don’t listen to people who adamantly push for a certain direction as they most likely have their own agenda.
Lastly, remember that there’s no benefit in being able to blame someone else for a poor decision which is why you should never put an advisor in the position to make the final call. You’re running the show, which means final decisions are always up to you.
- The Art of Finding a Mentor (grasshopper.com)
- 5 Rules for When to Listen to Advice (& When Not To) (inc.com)