Monday, March 16, 2015

Advisors to Avoid When you Start your Startup

are you launching a startup?
are you  launching a startup?

As soon as people hear you are launching a startup you will start getting all sorts of advice - good and bad, sensible and silly. Mention your ideas, and people around will turn into a variety of 'experts'. Suddenly the mailman will want to add onto your product line, your sister's new boyfriend will insist you add particular functionality and some person you met on the bus will know a top secret way to get Google to buy into your business. You will undoubtedly hear suggestions so ridiculous you'll have to insist that a generous pinch of salt is served alongside them.

Advice: to ignore advice, or not to ignore?

As a fresh entrepreneur rolling with a new idea, you could probably use good advice from people with experience. The problem is how to filter useful advice through an ocean of irrelevance. Start by taking a good look at the source of the advice: the advisor. There are many kinds of advisors, and some have to be avoided at all cost.
  1. The know-it-all - This kind of advisor comes across as being very knowledgeable without asking any questions about your business or paying much attention to your ideas. They launch into advice almost immediately; they spout out technical terminology and industry statistics at a rapid rate, and leave you wishing you had a pen, a notepad and some serious shorthand skills. The know-it-all is likely giving advice just to feel important and the advice is probably about their business, and not yours. 
  2. The blinkered - Blinkered advisors are assumed to be experts because they have had entrepreneurial success. This sort of advisor starts every bit of advice by using the distant past as an example and is only able to apply experience in a single context. Times change and it is important to get current advice from a wider scope of experience. 
  3. The snake - Although there are many honest people in the world, you may come across advisors with ulterior motives. Watch out for somebody who persists in trying to change your mind about something you instinct says is a good idea - good ideas are often stolen. 
  4. The yes man - You know if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Some advisors will be 100% positive about your startup and fall in with whatever you say. It is better to lend your ears to somebody with a balanced view than someone who agrees with you all the time.

What to look for in an advisor

Don't let this put you off taking advice; mentors and advisors can provide invaluable support. Look for good listeners with broad and current experience. Follow your gut, especially when it comes to insistent advisors, and don't get despondent if you get constructive criticism: appreciate it and learn from it.