How to Spot Bad Startup Advice

When you are starting a startup, you will be excited and you will tell everyone about it.  You should.  It is an exciting time.

You will also be given a tremendous amount of frivolous and harmful advice.  It is frivolous because it is not actionable advice.  It is harmful because following it will waste your time, and in a startup more than anything, time = money, and money is scarce.  So it is important sort the good advice from the bad, if for no other reason than to prevent it from cluttering your mind.

Most advice will come in the form of telling you “what” to do, but not “how” to do it.  Unfortunately, you only have 24 hours in a day.  Your list of “what to do” is incredibly long, and your list of how to do them is incredibly short.  So you fill your day trying to figure out how to do things you have never done before.  Tis the startup life.

If the advice is adding to your “what to do” list, you are probably fine just to forget it.  Adding to your “what to do” list is easy.  You are doing it already.

If the advice adds to your “how to do” list, listen to it.  It probably will not waste of time. “How to” advice is also incredibly rare and it will likely only come from people that personally know you and your business.   These people can turn into the best kind of mentors.

Here is a quick example of quintessentially bad advice I got once. I was told, “you know what you need? You need to hire someone that is super well-connected and can sell your product into the largest companies.” He was right.  Of course he was not that “well-connected person,” and he did not know that “well-connected person,” or how to find that “well-connect person.” So the advice, as true as it was, was worthless.  So I ignored it .

Of course you cannot stop people from saying what they think are helpful thoughts.  The best thing you can do is realize that it is not helpful, and forget about it.