Strategy · Entrepreneurship

How to know if you are receiving bad advice?

Awais Yaseen Visionary Tech Entrepreneur

October 24th, 2016

With all the hype over entrepreneurship, the quantity of information has gone way up while the quality has gone way down. That means entrepreneurs are getting lots of bad advice from unqualified sources. The worst thing about it is, when they actually get good advice that conflicts with what they’ve been told, they don’t recognize it for what it is. Sad but true. How do you really know if you are receiving bad advice from the wrong person?

Rob G

October 25th, 2016

1. look for directly applicable experience. 2 or 3 or 5 years in 1 job or 1 company or 1 industry is rarely enough experience. If the advice you seek is about startups then in addition to subject matter expertise look for startup experience - startups are just not the same as mature companies (stating the obvious i hope).
2. pattern match: i.e. seek advice from multiple experienced sources and look for patterns in the responses.
3. ask for stories. 1 quick test: when someone provides advice ask them to tell you about a time when they faced the same or directly similar situation and how they analyzed it and what they did and what the results were. If they have direct experience the story will flow. if not it should be easy to spot the BS. a good advisor will be comfortable telling you they don't know.
4. Look for shades of grey over Black and white: rarely is the real answer black or white. Most of the time the best advice depends on your situation and a number of variables. Don't expect a black or white answer.
5. Expect questions: Experienced advisors know that the answer usually depends and they will ask questions to be sure they understand the situation before they provide advice. If you get no questions that should raise a flag.

John Barley Insurance Broker | Risk Management Expert | Organisational Health Coach

October 24th, 2016

Simple answer is you don't until its too late. Work on your gut feel and check out the references. In our game of insurance we give the best advice we can and that even sometimes means thinking ahead of the clients questions. That means getting information from other sources. The aspect that infuriates me is when we give advice and then the prospective client goes and talks to their friend or another associate in their industry. But if they take the advice from their friend and it is wrong can they sue them . No . If we give wrongful advice then 1) our reputation is damaged - This is really bad 2) we can be sued and we have Professional Indemnity Insurance

So which is better . Sue a professional or sue your friend and best of luck. You have just lost a friend     

Chuck Bartok Social Media Consultant, Publisher, and Contrarian Curmudgeon

October 24th, 2016

I learned at an early age to gather information from more than one source.

It was heavily encouraged throughout Grammar school, High School and College.
I listened effectively, ciphered and made my own decisions quickly.
Many times not in line with my "consultants".

Two positives from that behavior.
1. No one to blame
2. More success than not.

But I did due diligence in choosing who I interacted with in the beginning.
I also learned, early, the most experienced and successful are the easiest to engage.

We have maintained some of these Mastermind Alliances for over 50 years.

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

October 25th, 2016

Great question! My grandfather used to read all seven of NYC's daily newspapers (several of which have since gone out of business) in order to triangulate a picture of what was *really* going on. 
  • Listen to multiple sources. If you hear the same thing over and over, there's probably merit in it.
  • Do your own research. Read some books and articles but recognize that the situation may not be comparable.
  • Post specific questions *with as much detail as you can* on discussion lists, including here at FD--but recognize that the advice you get will be a mix of useful and useless. Study the groups before posting questions so you get a sense of whose answers are worthwhile. The more carefully and completely you phrase your question, the better your answers. And learn how to parse it.
  • Listen to your gut. You can even develop the skill of asking your subconscious directly and listening to the answer (which may emerge as a movement of the body).
  • Don't be afraid to go out of the box, if it seems to be the right move--even if others are telling you it's too risky. But make sure it really is the right move.
Finally, be prepared when good advice takes you in a different direction, and understand when that makes sense. I'll tell you a success and a failure.

Back in 2003 as I was preparing my sixth book for publication (my 10th, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, came out this year), I asked a discussion list about subtitles that would go well with my main title, "Win-Win Marketing." This was a list where I'd been active for quite a few years, and I had a pretty good sense of the "players." I heard very strongly from some of the most respected people on the list that my main title was a problem (for reasons I still don't really relate to)--that the phrase "win-win" had enormous negative baggage for some people.

It took two months of brainstorming to come up with a title: Principled Profit: Marketing that Puts People First. This title is actually much more holistic and much more about the deeper content of the book, which went well beyond marketing into how to think very deeply about the structure and mission of your business. 

Oddly enough, knowing none of this history, the Mexican publisher (which had originally called it "Marketing Based in the People" changed the title on their second print run to "Marketing Based in Win-Win (Mercadotechnia basada en ganar-ganar)"

Fast-forward to last month. Someone I've known for many years and respect enormously got very excited about the way I am combining a Board of Advisors, Mastermind group and online discussion into a single entity for my new "Transformpreneurial Brain Trust." She gave me a long and well-thought-out brainstorm about how to commission brand new software that would do everything I wanted. The only problem was that she lost sight of my wider goal, which is to work with the business community on profitable ways to turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. I realized instantly that this would distract me from my real work and cost me much time and many thousands of dollars. Even though the advice came from a trusted source, it was bad advice for me at that moment. I chose to run with an off-the-shelf platform and to stay focused on my real mission.

Dave Boothe President at Allstates Refractory Contractors, LLC

October 25th, 2016

There is nothing like getting advice from the people who have been there and done that! When I started my first company, I went to some people who had started ones themselves. There were still some painful moments, but those lessons were minor compared to wondering in the wilderness. Over time, I learned that a good attorney and accountant were precious assets! However, the one thing I did and still do to this very day is to have a group of advisors who each have expertise in different areas. We all meet at least twice a year, more often if necessary, to discuss the successes of the period, the financial position of the company, and its plans for the next period and future. I've found their advice beyond valuable and their blunt honesty a little hard to bare sometimes! Bottom line, find advisors who have both expertise and success in yours or a similar industry and from outside to consult with. Listen to their offerings, sift out the things that are essential to your success and most important warnings of potential pitfalls. You will be successful and sleep better at night!

Jennifer Fortney CEO Cascade PR Story Agency: PR, content, branding; for SMB, SME & startups globally since 2001

October 26th, 2016

This is a REAL problem and I have heard from many clients who come to me after working with "mentors" who were more interested in hearing themselves talk, then actually help companies. I have heard that they spend thousands of dollars a month just to hear one person's opinions and no action plan to achieve goals. It's clearly very frustrating to many startups that feel they are being scammed by good sales people who make promises to bring funding, but ultimately get nothing for their money. 

This is the main reason that my mentorship program is actionable and holds both sides accountable with a plan, and it's far more affordable than many mentors. I strongly suggest that entrepreneurs seeking help from a mentor and make sure there is a plan in place with an end date to reach goals. It shouldn't go on in perpetuity. 

I also agree with many above, everyone has an opinion, and entrepreneurs should seek out those who have already been there and have REAL advice to give based on what they have learned. This can come from many places - magazines, trade shows, networking...

Knowledge is always power. Gather and then make the choices that are best for your business. As far as mentors, trust AND verify!

Lane Campbell I baked a unicorn cake once.

October 24th, 2016

This has been a common problem in the midwest where many technology companies have/had corporate offices with many successful middle managers.  Those folks are capitalized well enough to become angel investors but they don't make for the best mentors because they haven't built a company themselves.  To me money isn't as important as the experience to be garnered from working with seasoned entrepreneurs.  

Fortunately there is a generational shift happening where enough millennial's are finally selling their companies and moving into leadership positions where they can help the following generation.  

Siva Kota Senior HR and L&D professional

October 24th, 2016

Hello Awais I think it is not possible for anyone to know the difference between bad and good, unless , something within them cautions them and they heed to it. The cautioning itself is based on the inner work that has happened to create sensitivity to subtleness. So, the process of receiving bad advice and growing in understanding of reality itself is time taking and experience based. I do not know of any understanding that can happen to human existence, other than through experience. Yes, there is the realm of living ion what others say and it also has its importance. But, when an entrepreneur give most importance to their experience, rather than “free(or even paid one, for that matter) advice”, they learn fastest and come to the state of high levels of inner sensitivity that enables to always pick up the right path. Kota Siva

Hambirrao Patil

October 24th, 2016

"ADVICE" as "an opinion or suggestion about what someone should do." Thus, at its core, advice is neither good nor bad. It is simply an opinion of what one person thinks another should do. Nevertheless, good advice is the cornerstone of a successful outcome.

Questions on advice needed...

Raise on adviser-what is prompting the advisor's advice? Where does advice originate? It is essential to understand an advisor's motive. If the advisor is self-serving, the advice is likely to be biased. Even under the best of circumstances, this issue presents a tremendous challenge for renderer.

Raise on advice renderer-Additionally, how will the person rendering the advice benefit? What can a I do to minimize the possibility of bad advice? Choose a good advisor. It is even better to choose an advisor who is independent as opposed to one working for a large institution.

Thank You!

Dan Dascalescu Developer Advocate at Google

October 25th, 2016

Check the advice received against other sources, such as Quora, or here on FounderDating.