Your Start-Up Business: Taking Advice vs. Listening to Your Gut

08/09/2012 05:20 EDT | Updated 10/09/2012 05:12 EDT

In the earliest stages of Shyndyg, when we went from our basic prototype to our Minimum Viable Product, we decided to pull in the opinions and advice of experts in VC (we've made some finance friends along the way), tech (we wanted to get some mobile/testing advice) and hospitality -- people who plan lots of events (these were power users we identified early on).

We were eager to hear different perspectives from our own (although we have a combined five start ups between us, we've never been Co-Founders before). It became clear early on, however, that we would need to navigate through the advice using our best judgement.

Of the 2 VCs we talked to originally, we received diametrically opposed advice: one of them wanted us to do a partnership immediately with a brand we had a friendly relationship with. The other was so singularly focused on consumer (and most specifically consumer mobile) that we felt quite chastened in the meeting that we didn't have an app at the time.

And yet, both made excellent cases, and their pedigrees, success-wise were, quite impressive. We got some great advice along the way, which has helped us clarify our purpose.

So, how do you know when to listen to others and when to chart your own course?

It's important to take a step back and evaluate exactly why you're building something in the first place. If this is a "labour of love," (and we will discuss in another column why love is not enough) you can chart your own course 100 per cent as long as the money holds out.

However, if you're like most start ups, you have a limited amount of burn which you need to be mindful of, and you need to make your decisions made on your gut, informed by the people who are more knowledgable than you on a topic.

How We Decided

Returning to the App example, we were advised on one hand do just make a mobile-adaptable HTML 5 site, and that would a) control costs b) allow us to do "user-agent" testing (a user-agent is whatever a person uses to connect to your site.) and help us inform which native app we should build (Android or iOS). During this testing phase, we check the stats daily to figure out which type of mobile user is a more valuable (more time spent, more events planned) user, which will tell us which platform to develop an app for.

The alternative was not immediately feasible: build and release both an iOS and Android app. App developers of any significance are EXPENSIVE, and it's important to get a user experience expert on board at the beginning (user experience people are scarce as hen's teeth and also very expensive right now). Once built, we would have to spend even more to properly advertise.

In this case, we followed our gut, which told us to control burn and test, test, test. (This is an essential tenet of The Lean Startup, a book which we will refer to often.)

"Crowdsourcing for Future Failure"

Although we take time every week to take meetings with people (I'll be writing another column on work cadence soon) we are careful to make sure we stay focused on where we want the business to go.

I spoke recently with the Co-Founder of another start-up, Jeff Ullrich of Earwolf Podcasting Network, and he passed on this bit of wisdom:

"If someone has zero per cent stake in the results of the advice they give you, then you should probably give zero per cent of your attention to it."

One of the things only you and your team can bring to this business is your unique perspective. You've sought to solve a problem for people. Why? The answer to the why needs to drive every decision you make.

Consult others; listen only to the advice which suits your business at that time, and reflects where you want it to go. If you're listening to your users, testing, and iterating, you'll get further than by listening to every expert's voices.