Do You Like My Idea?

Go left. Go right. Backup. Rush forward. Think bigger.  Focus. And on, and on it goes. Like my idea? Entrepreneurs tend to receive a lot of advice.

The outside input can be invaluable in launching and scaling a business.  Companies rarely possess the resources required to ‘cover all of the bases’ and independent thinking gleaned from outsiders can reveal insights that are difficult to uncover when you’re deep ‘in the mix’ of day-to-day execution. The ways to obtain informed input range from assembling a formal Board Of Advisors and conducting recurring meetings to buying coffee or drinks in exchange for a person’s perspective.

What you will find, if you haven’t already, is that there is a reason for the saying that, ‘everyone has an opinion.’  The challenge is sifting through the information and deciding what feedback is relevant and should be integrated into your plans going forward

Processing the opinions

This quote from Albert Einstein could be the credo for every entrepreneur, ever:

“The one who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.”

So, how can you balance Einstein’s goal to go to a place where no one has been before (sometimes the very key to success)  and leverage the concept of crowd wisdom, which can be truly helpful?

Your DNA – Why you exist, why you started your company

Assuming that you’re talking with people who have a perspective that is relevant to what you’re doing, one helpful approach is to look for clusters of opinion, conceptually (not literally), like a scatter plot:

Again, this is not a literal scatter plot; rather, it represents a way to think about feedback from experts in various domains. Cluerted opinions may help you identify things that you should consider for your business.

BIG, BIG  CAUTION – It’s really easy to throw out outlier perspectives, and many times, that is exactly the right thing to do.  However, outlier opinions and perspectives that are very consistent with your DNA (why you exist, why you started your company) should be carefully and thoughtfully considered – perhaps that’s where a truly innovative and disruptive idea lives, one of the keys to truly differentiating your business.

A lot of advice is just…well…not very helpful

Here are some things to reject pretty quickly, based on our experience at Black Ice, and as entrepreneurs:

Just change everything. The market’s wrong, the value isn’t there, the product is wrong, you can’t do this, pioneers take the arrows… There are just some people who pride themselves on identifying all of the reasons why they think you will fail.  Based on overall business failure rates, you obviously have to integrate risk reduction when moving forward.  It’s much more valuable to gain insight into how to reduce risk and identify the ‘2 or 3 things’ you can focus on in order to be successful.

It’s as easy to raise [$2M] as it is to raise [$200K]  No, it’s not.

Advice that doesn’t square with customer feedback Ultimately, the customer’s vote is the only one that counts.  Advice that is contrary to what is resonating in your marketplace is generally bad advice.  

Features, features, features “This would be really cool if…,” Blue sky thinking about features is fun.  Don’t get too wrapped up in this, unless the person you are talking with is a domain expert with a track record of product development that is adopted by customers.

You need to build a brand

All too often new companies leading with the brand building (spending a lot of money on advertising for example), rather than business building that integrates your core values and aspirations.  No amount of imagery and vocabulary can overcome poor execution. It generally takes time for your DNA to expand into a business. We all are familiar with ‘brands’ that ring hollow and aren’t authentic.  Let your business define its brand based on your customers and what they truly value (and will pay for).