Mentors are invaluable to entrepreneurs. But what happens when you get conflicting advice from multiple mentors? It can be confusing, as they are all smart people. Who should you listen to?
This is a consistent question I receive as a mentor for the Chicago chapter of Techstars. Hopefully, this post will help you cut through the confusion and lead you to the best decision-making skills.
Listen to experience. Ask yourself these key questions: Which mentor has actually built a business in my industry? Which has faced similar marketing challenges, built similar revenue or pricing models or similar consumer lifestyle brands? You need to weigh 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.
Listen to success. 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 local travel agency -- or worse yet, the corner dry cleaner? Turn up the “volume” of people that have proven their abilities time and time again, as opposed to “one-hit wonders” that may have just been lucky the first time around.
Related: Ignore the Advice of These 3 People
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 rules serve as your tie breaker when you are not sure which direction to head. That all said, sometimes the 20 percent can actually be the best advice, if non-conventional thinking is actually 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 OK 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.
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.