If you have children, you know that even before you become a parent, everyone wants to give you advice. All of a sudden, everybody’s an expert.
But once you have kids, you also know that every child is unique, and no one knows your child as well as you do. So, you learn to take the advice you think will work with your child and put it into practice. (You also learn to throw out what doesn’t work.) You may even stop listening to advice on child-rearing altogether.
The danger with this approach? You just might miss a valuable nugget that could make a tough time a little easier.
What’s your mindset?
Starting a business is similar to having a child in many ways, including the amount of advice you’ll receive. It’d be easy to simply stop listening—after all, who knows your company better than you?
But that’s not going to work well for you or your business in the long run, especially if you have a relationship with venture capitalists. Most VCs expect to have some input into the way your company is run. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Venture capitalists come to the table with more than just money. They bring experience and wisdom garnered from previous relationships with startups. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. That doesn’t mean their advice is always right for your company, but it is worth listening to and considering.
Giving advice in a way that it will be considered is an art form, but so is taking advice. As a startup owner, are you ready to take advice? Do you have the necessary mindset to listen to what others have to say and decide whether to apply it to your business?
It’s all about perspective
How do you create a mindset that will allow you to filter through the advice others bring to the table? It all starts with perspective, says Alex Turnbull, CEO and founder of Groove:
“There’s no substitute for actually asking people with wildly different perspectives from yours for advice. … You’ll see angles and opportunities that didn’t exist before.”
As a parent, when you’re in the midst of dirty diapers and late-night feedings, it can be hard to think about the teenage years. But someone who’s already lived through that can tell you how quickly the days fly by.
The same is true with your business. Many times, VCs and others bring a long-term perspective to the table that you may not have because you’re in the throes of startup life. It’s easy to become laser-focused on the here and now and miss things you should be doing that will benefit you later. Don’t get so caught up in your own perspective that you dismiss advice from those who may have a broader view based on wider experience.
What are your biases?
Another barrier to taking advice can be your own biases and experiences. You may have tried something once that didn’t work or you simply may not like a certain course of action based on something you’ve seen or heard in the past.
When you want to reject a piece of advice based on your own experiences, first examine those biases to make sure they’re a legitimate reason to pass up the recommended course of action.
In an article in Harvard Business Review, David Garvin and Joshua Margolies call this “egocentric bias,” the idea that “even when people lack expertise, they put more stock in their own opinions than in others’ views.” Often, biases aren’t based on facts, and experiences can be specific to a certain set of circumstances. Don’t let your past hold you back for no reason.
How does it compare?
As parents, we’ve all had those moments when our teenager comes home and tell us they’ve decided something based on the advice of another adult—the exact same advice we’ve been giving them! While they weren’t interested in taking that advice from us, they’re more than happy to take it from someone else (even though the information is identical).
When considering advice about your company, be like that teenager. Seek advice from more than one person, then compare that advice. If you seem to be getting the same advice from multiple sources, it might be time to seriously consider that course of action.
Taking advice from others can be difficult, especially when that advice is different from what you would do on your own. But as a startup owner, you need to be ready to consider advice from multiple sources. Not all advice will be perfect for your company, of course. But just because the advice may not be right for your company doesn’t mean you should stop listening.
Because as any good parent will tell you, it’s not a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Marshall Dougherty is a partner of Target Hill Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to building scalable growth companies and investment opportunities backed by unmatched due diligence to exceed VC success rates and investor IRR. Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or on LinkedIn.