What I learned about taking advice as a first-time CEO. How to receive what’s valuable and ignore what’s not.
Everyone has an opinion. Especially if you’re running a start-up.
Taking advice is essential as a first-time founder. There are SO many things you don’t know — the only way you can make progress at the speed the job requires is to get a lot of great advice. Unfortunately, advice is easy to get but hard to judge. At its best, advice can help you solve a critical problem or save days, maybe even months of headache. At its worst, advice could drive you to the wrong decision or make you so discouraged about your idea that you give up entirely. For these reasons, it’s essential to figure out what advice to follow and what advice to ignore.
Here’s how I learned how to think about it.
Write down your “personal board of directors.”
Decide whose expertise you respect regarding specific domains (i.e., product, fundraising, management, etc.) When I’m receiving advice, I think about who it’s coming from. For example, if someone has something negative to say and they’re not on my personal board of directors, I ignore it — or, if I’m concerned about something that may have merit, I put it in front of someone I trust and get their opinion.
If you get too much advice, you might confuse yourself with too much data and slow down decision making. So try to avoid analysis paralysis by keeping your personal board of directors list tight.
Seek advice often.
Once you have a solid list of people you trust and respect, reach out to them frequently for advice. During my first 1–2 years of running my startup, I didn’t reach out enough to get outside opinions. It’s easy to do and can save you tons of time and headache, so do it often.
Don’t follow blindly.
If you’re getting advice from someone you trust, but it doesn’t feel right to you, trust your gut and ignore it. They won’t be offended (and if they are, they’re not the kind of advisor you need). It’s that simple. You know your company best, so you must take all advice with a grain of salt and be prepared to sometimes ignore advice from people you genuinely respect.
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