Monday, April 28, 2014

Lesson #176: How to Filter Conflicting Advice from Multiple Mentors

Posted By: George Deeb - 4/28/2014


& Comment

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 that 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 lead you to the best decision making skills.

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 first-hand 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 of where to focus.
Not all mentors are created equal.  Sometimes the loudest voices come from unproven mentors that 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 that runs a struggling local travel agency . . . or worse yet, the corner dry cleaner?  And, turn up the “volume” of people that have proven their abilities time and time again, as opposed to “one hit wonders” that may have got lucky the first time around.
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 ten mentors the same question, and 80% 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 all said, sometimes the 20% can actually be the best advice, if non-conventional thinking is actually what your business needs to succeed.
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 OK to go against the mainstream way of thinking, if you are 100% 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 your business and the buck stops with you.  So, only go in a direction which you feel comfortable.
For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at:  @georgedeeb.

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