I am a mentor for the Chicago chapter of Techstars, now in my fourth year. In the first month of the program, the member companies are immersed with mentorship from the 150 Techstars mentors who are part of the local program.
And, the consistent question I get, year after year, from the member companies is: “I am getting conflicting advice from the multiple mentors, and it is confusing me, as they are all smart people, and I am not sure who to listen to?” Hopefully, this post will help you cut through the confusion and allow you to utilize your best decision-making skills.
Listen to Experience
In the above example of 150 Techstars mentors, ask yourself the key questions: Which of these mentors has actually built a business in my industry? Or has faced similar marketing challenges? Or has built similar revenue or pricing models or similar consumer lifestyle brands? Or: whatever other questions that may be relevant to prioritizing and filtering your mentor feedback.
You need to weight the “volume” of the mentor’s voice based on their direct firsthand experience in your space. Once you narrow down the base of mentors to only the most relevant, it will help you to gain more clarity on where to focus.
Listen to Success
Not all mentors are created equal. Sometimes the loudest voices come from unproven mentors who have never actually achieved any quantifiable success of their own. As an example, in building the next big travel site, are you going to listen to the founders of Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity, or are you going to listen to the advice of Uncle Bob who runs a struggling local travel agency—or worse yet, the corner dry cleaner?
Turn up the “volume” of people who have proven their abilities time and time again, as opposed to “one hit wonders” who may have got lucky the first time around.
Listen to the Majority
When you are filtering advice, if you start to hear the same suggestions over and over again, there is a pretty good chance that advice is the way to go. There is not one right way to build a business, so two mentors may in fact both be right, even though they are suggesting different routes.
But, if you ask 10 mentors the same question, and 80 percent of them are pointing you in one direction, let majority-rule serve as your tie breaker when you are not sure which direction to head.
That said, sometimes the 20 percent can actually be the best advice, if non-conventional thinking is what your business needs to succeed.
Listen to Your Gut
If all else fails, and the above techniques do not clearly point you in one direction over another, then, like any good entrepreneur, you need to follow your gut. Your natural instincts will pull you in one direction over another. And, in some cases, your internal gut instincts may even end up overriding the above qualifiers.
It is okay to go against the mainstream way of thinking if you are 100 percent sure it is the right solution for the long run. But, understand; it may come at your own peril or with a lot of headwind along the way if it impedes your ability to attract business champions or investors.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how to filter conflicting advice from multiple mentors. Remember, at the end of the day, it is your business, and the buck stops with you. So only go in a direction that you feel comfortable.
This article was originally published on Red Rocket VC, a consulting and financial advisory firm with expertise in serving the startup, digital and venture community.
Image credit: CC by Jacob Botter