Early Stage Insider: Taking Advice…

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Starting up a new company can be daunting, and is tough to do alone.

As the euphoria around the initial ‘big idea’ starts to transition into a more sober assessment of what needs to be done to actually execute on it, you will probably start reaching out to key people in your network for validation and advice. This is a critical phase in launching a business, challenging you to fully think through the premise of your venture and the details of what you’ll need to do to make it happen. If not approached with the right mindset, a lot of the value you’re looking to get from it will be lost.

Probably the single most important thing you can do when approaching this step is to avoid selection bias when seeking advice – picking the people that you think are most likely to say good things about what you are doing. You want to talk to people that will give you honest, constructive advice. This isn’t about getting told how great your idea is -even if it is. It’s about understanding where your weaknesses are, and what you can do to address them. Maybe the team you’re putting together isn’t right. Maybe some of your assumptions about market size are off. Maybe the technology you’re using isn’t ideal. Whatever it is, talking to people that can identify these things right up front is critical.

The closer you can get to doing the right things in the right order, the sooner you’ll be able to get your first minimally viable product into the market. The longer it takes to find the gaps in your planning, the harder it will be to deal with the issues that arise. Boosting your chances of success is more important than boosting your ego, so talk to the people that can really make a difference.

Now assuming that you are talking with the right circle of people, the next thing to remember is how to listen to what they are saying critically. Understand what biases they have (everyone has them), and factor that in. Try to validate any important points they make with other people you talk to, and don’t be afraid to get back to them later with follow-up questions if something doesn’t make sense or isn’t clear. Remember that things are constantly changing, and the approaches that worked great for them may not work as well for you. Of course, you should always respect the time and effort they are putting in to help you and truly consider their advice. But when it comes time to set your course, you should still be willing to go your own path if you think that’s the better choice.

The goal of seeking advice at this point isn’t to put together a plan based on pieces and parts of what everyone has told you. It’s to put together the best version of your plan that you can – a plan challenged, iterated, and refined by this process. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings if you decide to forgo the advice they offered. If you’ve been talking with the right folks, that won’t matter to them – they’ve been where you are and will understand.

In the end, success will be a combination of a great idea, great timing, excellent execution, and – of course – a little luck.

Do whatever it takes to maximize all of them.

If you have any experiences – good or bad – with taking business advice, please share them in the comments.