Let’s set the record straight for dealing with advice. When you go look for advice- in the real down-to-earth, you-really-get-me kind of way, you know what no one ever tells you? That there could be this infitecimal, minute, one out of a million trillion stars in the galaxy possibility, that someone else’s advice might contradict their own.
So what do you do when you have two very smart people telling you two- or 12- very different things? You take a crapshoot.
Surprise surprise, business is not black and white. And I don’t just mean in making ethical dilemmas on whether or not to pay your interns. I mean black and white from a point of view. Two people can see literally the exact same problem and come up with two completely opposite solutions— both of which may be right. Both of which are just as likely to be wrong.
I guarantee for most of you, startup, business or not, you’re going to come to this impasse. So lets look at your options. You can pick the guy who’s done it longer/ more times/ or is paid for the job. Or you can follow your gut. Or you sometimes have the third mystery-mayhem-oh-god-what-do-I-do-now option?
Example. One of the most excruciating lessons I learned came from the first step out the door. How do I send in the paperwork to incorporate? Glamorous, I know, hold your applause— cough. To solve said boring paperwork problem, I went to two trusted sources of information.
One was my father. Serial entrepreneur, Wharton MBA, has been doing this for 25 years. Which means option A had qualifications. Option B was a Entrepreneurship Law Professor at NYU. Professor for 35 years, has a Startup Law practice, NYU JD. Okay, also good advice. So I couldn’t really pick the guy who’s done it longer/ more/ is paid for it. So much for that.
The father advised I use a service like Legal Zoom. A little more expensive but saves you time and hassle online. The professor advises “NO no no LegalZoom is silly, they charge for something that you can do easily, you should mail in your paperwork to the State yourself.”
To be clear, both are legitimate options that work for many people. At the end of my story, I went with option B to incorporate by hand- meaning I mailed in my paperwork to the state. If I’m being honest its mainly because I wanted to be cool and follow my gut and had a “psh please- I can totally do this myself” attitude.
In my case, I took Professor’s advice, because saving an extra hundred bucks meant more to me than the time it would take to have another service do it for me. WRONG. 8 hours on hold with the State Department, Cher singing on a 2 bit loop, 2 months of waiting, and what ended up being $1500 instead of 600- where is the re-do button?
Looking back, do I think its good to generally follow your gut? Honestly. No. Unless you’re Warren Buffet, Alex’s gut might as well be holding a sign saying “trust my overinflated ego.” I think following your gut is okay for small decisions, but it leads to a spiral of empty data which is really just based on assumptions you pull from where the sun don’t shine.
Do I think you follow the best advisors? Yes, with a caveat. In this day and age, chances are you’ll actually find quality information if you look for it. It’s the wonders of Google. The hard part is when that advice conflicts and both sources know what their doing- so your stuck at square one.
What I do think you really do is stick with the side that shares your values– and that might not be the first thing you see. For me, I have come to the conclusion that when making a gamble, value time over money. Chances are, you can do more productive things with that time.
Most importantly, if you can understand someone’s values, then their logic and the consequential results of what you do, will probably make sense too, which means less stress and damaging surprises along the way.