Starting a Business

Learn to Lean on Your Advisors

Take advantage of expert advice--but know that the final say is yours.
3 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The number of decisions you have to make when taking your product to market can make your head spin. You'll need the help of a surprising number of advisors and advice from a wide range of experts, including accountants, bookkeepers, corporate and patent attorneys, design and marketing consultants, business planning consultants, independent sales representatives, warehousing and fulfillment consultants, engineers, freight forwarders, customs brokers, research consultants, website designers, IT consultants . . .

The good news is that there are many ways to get access to the expertise you may need. The bad news is that just the process of managing your advisors and advice can be a challenge, especially when the advice you get from one expert conflicts with that given by another. However, the most critical mark of a good advisor is his or her ability to provide essential information that enables you to make a qualified decision.

Far too often, inventors make a major decision without sufficient advice, information and varying viewpoints. Most notable are the many stories I hear from inventors who have squandered their last $10,000 with an invention promotion company that no longer returns their calls. These arrangements are usually made with little more than input from a family member who believes in the brilliance of her invention.

Learn to recognize when you are facing a decision that you feel insufficiently informed to make, then find and contact advisors. There are experts in practically every field. Make your decision only after you feel confident in your grasp of the information.

There is one other point worth making here: Experts and advisors all have limitations, and differing sets of experiences and perspectives. Your job is to factor these elements into your decision-making process. For example, if you ask a patent attorney whether you should file a patent, there's a pretty good chance he'll say yes. On the other hand, a business advisor may suggest you forego the cost of a patent and get to market as quickly as possible, putting your available resources into marketing rather than intellectual property.

When it comes to conflicting advice, be willing to listen to what you may not want to hear. Ultimately, you're the one who will be dealing with the consequences of your decisions. The most important thing to remember is that the decision is yours alone. If your advisor is unable to support your independence in this way, you may want to find another advisor.

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