Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #14

Ryan Rutan: mm hmm. Yeah. What if the advice that you're getting from the smartest people that you know is wrong as startup founders, we all seek advice. We all want the answers to the test will face, but let's face it not all advice is equal. Not all advice is valuable and none of it should be followed blindly. There can be no replacement for your own decision making. As a founder today on the startup therapy podcast will discuss how to seek advice, how to ensure you're getting the best advice and how not to fall into the trap of letting other people's experiences dictate your actions. So today, on startup Therapy podcast, we're going to talk about getting advice and how to seek advice, where to find it, how to make sure that you're doing the best job you can and receiving that advice. We know that as founders, you have these unlimited list of questions and you're always going to be seeking out help and answers to the test. But well, why do you think it is that so many people are are getting bad advice or they're doing a bad job following the advice? Are they getting the wrong advice to the wrong people in in your mind, you know, when we unpack this, what's the real issue here?

Wil Schroter: I think that people are assuming the advice is good to begin with? I think people are saying, okay, this person sounds like they know what they're talking about or they've had a great track record. So by way of that whatever advice they're about to give me has to be valid and and the truth is it's sort of not right. I mean, like more often than not, the advice you're getting is so far off base, typically well intentioned Ryan, right? Like, I mean, we tend to see people giving well intentioned advice that also doesn't make it good advice and where it really starts to break is we put all this faith in our advisors to do a lot of things that they're not doing, such as providing context or listening closer asking better questions before they give advice. And so there's this whole litany of kind of faux pas that that we get from both advisors and then the founders themselves that I don't think a lot of people are aware of.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I agree. Yeah. I think the context is the, probably the most important piece in all of that. And I think that there's a danger in looking at somebody who's somewhere ahead of where you are, right and saying, hey, that person has done something that I want to do. I'll have them tell me how, which is dangerous from, you know, the seeker's perspective. But I also think the same thing happens from the adviser's side, which is the advisor sitting there going, I'm here. I've made it, I can tell someone how I got here, but without the context of where that person is, that's really dangerous. And so I think you end up in these conversations where both people are thinking the same thing, which is that they have the answer and or I have the answer and, and that's where it starts to go off the rails.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, so I think for this discussion we should probably consider, we're pointing the discussion and the way at both the advisors and asking them to be more deliberate about how they give advice and, and then certainly the founders and in how they receive asked for and most importantly, synthesized advice. And I think we're seeing a few areas where it's consistently been being given wrong. And let me give you an example, right? Because this, when I wrote the article, this was what was in my head Years ago I met a startup weekend and at the end of startup weekends, for those of you that have been in the event, you've got 54 hours if you will from Friday till Sunday to come up with an idea and then build kind of like a prototype and then pitch it to a panel of judges at the end and the judges pick which one they think is most interesting. It's pretty cool, but at the end you get usually four or five volunteer judges, you know, kind of local fixtures, usually around your community, people have done well and they're there to give advice on what they think the validity of the idea and what they think of the idea. Well what blows me away having been to a ton of these and this is just kind of a metaphor, um for all the bad advice being given is how quickly the advisors the judges want to give absolute answers to a concept that just heard about five seconds ago. And and I'm sitting there listening to them give this advice going holy ship, what happens if that startup, that founder actually takes their advice? Because I know for a fact

Ryan Rutan: it's

Wil Schroter: wrong,

Ryan Rutan: this is a really interesting, this is a great example, will because I believe that a lot of that happens because the judges feel pressured to give some kind of response. So going back to this this notion of context in the context of startup weekend, these judges only have this minute or two to respond and give their thoughts and they feel like they have to so they're like, I have to say something right, I have to tell them what to do, they're here because I know something more than they do. And so I have to have to hand them something and then what they end up handing them is sort of a half, half rapped out of context, piece of advice that as you said, let's hope they don't follow it

Wil Schroter: well, right in what they should be doing. And this is again the onus of both the advisor, but also I think it's important for the founders if someone's not asking the right questions and I think we can probably get to this later, but if somebody is not asking the right questions as the adviser, you kind of already know, you're probably about to get shitty advice, right?

Ryan Rutan: That's that's the context piece, right? Without the questions. Unless they have some other way of knowing your life story and your business story, they can't they can't apply context to the situation

Wil Schroter: at all. And this used to piss me off when I was out pitching for for venture, right? I would I would get in front of a venture firm happen all the time, right? And and I'd get in front of venture firm, I throw out my pitch deck and whatever we were talking about, you know, done venture for a lot of different businesses. And what blew me away was how I could get in front of the partners at any venture firm. And within five minutes they're telling me how my business is going to go. And I'm thinking of myself, this isn't a part where you should be telling me anything. You should be asking questions where they

Ryan Rutan: were they delivering this information from behind tented fingers

Wil Schroter: By any course? Yeah. How else would they deliver? Nose turned up, tented fingers? Well, that will never be a big enough market. I'm like, how the fund could you know that, like I've been working for two years, you've been here for 60 seconds. Right, come on. What I found over time, is that the best advisors in people giving advice in general, even if they don't consider themselves advisors are patient, they're thoughtful, They asked questions long before they give any answers right? And they keep saying what if even if they know the answer, that's to me, that's like the most ninja move, right? Like you already know two plus two equals four, but you're asking how they got their answer, right? Show your work. Yeah. And what ends up happening though, because let's say at a startup weekend because the judges aren't leading with a question, they're not giving themselves enough ammunition to properly give advice. And I think that's a dangerous place to be right for both sides, for both sides. And so what frustrates me when I sit down with the founder and the founder says, oh I've been given this advice by such and such or you know, I'm getting my advisers are currently telling me this this and this first thing I'll say, what hard questions did they ask you before they give that advice?

Ryan Rutan: How did you arrive at that point? Yeah, you have to know that. And it's what's interesting. So like as as a as somebody who feels a lot of startup questions, you've gotten really good at this, right? And it's even even when somebody else is presenting their advice, six. So I was advised to do this, we have to get the context of that to even understand how they arrived at that point because I think something else that's dangerous is you get this compounding advice effect, there'll be times where I'm talking to people, they're like, well, so and so already said, and you know, and they're the expert in this and I get resistance around asking questions about how they arrived at that point, I'm like, look man, I can't drop more perspective on top of what they've given you already without running the risk that we're now heading doubly in the wrong direction. Like I gotta know right, I have to have the context out there, like, you know, we've already figured that out, so we want to know is what to do next. I'm like, yeah, you're not gonna get that from me because it's super, super dangerous because now we're compounding bad advice and this gets exponentially more dangerous, right? Building a really shitty second floor on a really bad foundation, right? We do not want to do that.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, so I'll give you an example, you know, when we were raising money for a company that we started a long time ago called afforded dot com, which doesn't exist anymore for lots of good reasons, um you know, we had raised a, you know, a little bit of money from some pretty notable Vcs and the premise though, this, this is this is the best part, the premise was we wanted to create a Payment mechanism to be able to buy things using weekly payments. I mean that now exists 10 years later with companies like affirm etc but that we're literally doing the exact same thing. When we went to Vcs we sat down and we said okay here's the premise uh there's a huge amount of the US population that's unbanked. We want to be able to create this simple credit mechanism that doesn't require past credit checks etcetera. And immediately within 60 seconds I'm getting these really pointed, well that'll never work. It'll never scale. It'll never this it'll never that. And I'm thinking to myself again, pardon my french how the fund did you know that? And so I started going down my list right? Because as you know I'm pretty chatty guy about these things and I say so I just have to understand before you tell me in this absolute sense that the total addressable market, the tam is this etcetera. Have you ever built a business in this arena before? Oh no. Okay. You haven't, by the way, your V. C. Have you ever built a business? But forget it, forget that for a second. But I need to understand your qualifications for giving this advice before. I can assess the weight of that advice and let me tell you man, not very many people hold up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny. They get so used to being able to give their advice and just have it be absolute gospel. It's sort of not when you challenge them. Not a lot of people can back it up.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, I think you also have to consider the context in which you're getting the advice like what is the reason this person is telling you this thing? And in the realm of Bc, I think that very frequently they're just trying to send you away right there. For whatever reason, they're not interested, whether they're right or wrong or whatever. So you have to consider the context. Why is this person wanting to help me in the first place? Right. Are they, you know, do they have the best intentions? Do they just have, you know, neutral intentions in the case of a of a VC, you know, or or is there is there something else at play there? And I think that's really important to consider too, like how much of a vested interest does this person have in getting the answer Right.

Wil Schroter: Right. And and how self aware are they of the context of their their advice. For example, I get people that come to me all the time with advice for their startups and they look at me and says, hey, you're startups guy, you know, you're ceo of a startup startup dot com, you must know a lot about this stuff you've done a lot of and I always preface by saying I know a lot about starting companies, it's like literally the only thing that that that I'm an expert at, however, I'm not necessarily an expert at starting your company? Because yeah, I understand the playbook, but I don't understand how how the game is played in your industry or for what you're trying to solve,

Ryan Rutan: man. Two things, two things in that sentence that I wanna unpack one, right? It's this it's this notion, right? And I get this question all the time. Like what do you think about my business idea and my my automatic answer to that is always the same. I don't I literally don't think about your business idea because it's your business idea. And and so this is that going back to that notion, notion of context, right? We have to have that that context and it requires, you know, a lot of background information to be able to help them with with a specific uh specific response I said there were two things in that sense that I want to unpack and I forgot what the other one

Wil Schroter: was. Again, it's incumbent on both sides of the equation here, both the the founder and the advisor to both understand the context. So, uh if I sit down with someone and I say I want to start a pizza chain, right? Just an old school business, I wanna start a pizza chain. And I'm able to get in front of Jim Grody who started Donatos Pizza, which, you know, sold to Mcdonald's, et cetera. You're thinking to yourself for a minute, okay, I'm in front of Jim he's going to tell me exactly how pizza shop should start. Is he though, When was the last time Jim started a pizza shop? Right. What, 30 years

Ryan Rutan: ago?

Wil Schroter: What I'm saying is, you know, the stuff that he's probably dealing with day to day are so far removed right from what you're going to be dealing with the life and times of what, what the world looked like in order to promote and deliver pizza 30 years ago or so different than what they are today. Now, I'm not saying that that he wouldn't have some good advice. I'm saying you can't just say he's in the pizza business. I want to be in the pizza business. So whatever he tells me, he has absolute context. It does, that's it and and it gets dangerous. So, you know, I think it mentioned in the article I said if you were to take somebody that was that was giving this advice and they're saying, okay, here's what you absolutely have to do. You start sizing that up and you start to say, okay, well when I started scaling, uh, you know, my marketing, is it the same as when you were scaling your marketing and your product market fit right? It wasn't right. So maybe I started my business five years ago in the world looked a certain way, you know, social performed a certain way, Google Adwords perform in a certain way and it just doesn't now. That was just five years ago. I can't assume that our two frames of reference are the same. I can't assume that because I scaled a product in that category, that it's the same as you scaling it today in the same category. Probably with different resources.

Ryan Rutan: I'd go a step further. Yeah, I would go a step further and say assume that it's not the same. I also accept for them. They just assume that the context is not the same. It's just never it's never going to be. Um and you know, your point around taking advice from Jim and you know, him launching the business 30 years ago, he can't really give advice at that point, not about the start, right? He can he can give you perspective. All right. He gave me his point of view. He can he can't tell you how to do it. He can tell you what he did. And I think that's such an important distinction because every little company and at every stage is going to have its own unique challenges, Right? We're all snowflakes and, and therefore, you know, we cannot just apply uh you know, the same learnings and say that like, okay, this will just work. And this reminded me of the second point, which was that you said uh you used the word playbook, right? And I don't think that there's anything wrong with having a playbook, But I think that the minute that you start to be getting play booked. So if I jumped on the phone and I've asked somebody question, I asked him like, Hey, Jim, I'm thinking about starting a pizza shop, what should I do? And he's like, let me lay it out for you and then he just goes into a 30 minute delivery of his playbook. I should really be screwed. I should probably stop listening, right? And I'm not, this isn't about jim of course. Um he may have the perfect playbook for doing this. He may be thinking about how to start in the context of today, every day. I don't know that. But the point being it has to be contextualized. So if he hasn't asked those hard questions, if he doesn't understand like where are you starting for? What market, Right are you delivery? Is that dynamic? There's so many things that have to be unpacked before you can do that. So if you start getting play booked and they're not asking questions and you're just getting advice, you're probably not getting good advice because all you're getting at that point is, is a plan that isn't adapted to your needs at all. Right. Which makes it about is worth worth as much as the paper it's written on.

Wil Schroter: And so really the common thread there on both sides again is just asking questions and just keep asking why, right? When somebody starts to say this is exactly how you're supposed to scale facebook marketing instead of saying, well tell me how to do that. Say why, you know, why should I be taking that approach? And if if they can say, well, that's that's how we did it. So that's how you should do it. That actually might be true, right? It might be 100% true, but it's worth a little investigation.

Ryan Rutan: Exactly, right.

Wil Schroter: Because the last thing you want to do is start taking all this great advice that's sending you on this wild goose chase, which by the way, I have to say this and and first time founders, this is pointed directly at you. You're going to get so much bad advice that looks like good advice. You probably got something today, right? All you can do to combat this. All you can do to to to to really synthesize this is keep asking, is it is it relevant? Is it true? Why am I getting this advice? What other counterpoints have I sought out? Right. Young founders really aren't given that advice, like the advice on how to take advice. Right? And and it's tricky because man, we rely on it so much, you know, early in our careers

Ryan Rutan: I can think of. So we have we know nothing, right? So anybody who knows a little bit more must be an expert and they must be right. I was,

Wil Schroter: I was so I was so drawn to this. You know, when I was young I started my first business when I was 19, I was so enamored with anybody that that wore a tie, right? You know, so to speak. Um, that had, that had silver hair, that was, that was, you know, more, you know, more experience than I was. I assumed whatever they were telling me was gospel because no one had ever told me don't make that assumption, right? So I just looked at it and I thought, man, this person is telling me exactly the way the world works must be exactly the way the world works turns out later

Ryan Rutan: Into the Bland. The one eyed Man is King, right? Exactly, right.

Wil Schroter: And so the other place that I think I got tripped up a lot and I definitely see this when I'm sitting on boards of other companies and I'm

Ryan Rutan: watching founders

Wil Schroter: firsthand take advice is most of this advice is delivered as absolute yes, it's not, Hey, you should consider this, which is the right way to phrase any advice you're supposed to do this. And more specifically, I'm implying that if you don't, there's something wrong with you,

Ryan Rutan: right? Yeah. That's, that's the hallmark of a really, really bad advisor, Right? When they give you the advice and then they set the expectation and I've had people do this to where they're like, you know, here's your, here's, here's what you gotta do, Ryan, let me let me lay it out for, here's step one, step two, step three and then they do something that I think is probably well intentioned there, like, and I'm gonna hold you accountable to this. When do you want me to check in to make sure that you've done this? I'm like, um how about I get back to you after I decide if I even want to do this? It's been

Wil Schroter: around the block twice

Ryan Rutan: now. Yeah, I mean like, and but it's crazy and and again, like, I don't think it comes from a bad place, I think that they're sure they're telling you the right thing to do. It's super dangerous. And while that's the hallmark of a shitty advisor, I think one of the, one of the the little signs that tells that I use now if I'm seeking advice, somebody gives me their advice. I always like it when it's couched as perspective too. It's a word I use a lot. I tried I in fact, I will literally tell people I don't give advice, but I can give you some perspective right? I want you to figure out what to do. But I think the hallmark of a really good adviser and I've I've I've gotten a lot of this advice and this is one of the ways that I can kind of put a check mark and say aha this person, this is good, okay, they will actually suggest to me where to go or who else to talk to, to get an additional point of view on this, right? They're not going to tell me just, you know, go seek additional opinions. Right. Which is we're telling everybody you said it a few minutes ago, founders get more than one perspective, right? Don't take one person's data point as the line. One point does not make a line, You've got to get a couple of data points, then you can start to plot your direction. But I think that some of the best advisers that I've dealt with were people who came and said, here's what I think here's my perspective. I'd suggest also talking to this person, this person and checking out this resource so that you can start to form your own opinion. Like that always feels really, really good to me,

Wil Schroter: right? And I think that there's a matter of showing some humility as an adviser. One of the things I think Ryan, we've done as far as all the folks that startups dot com that have gotten on the phone with founders met with founders, you know, traded a gazillion emails is we always start with This is to your point, this is one perspective your mileage may vary for sure. We're stating from the outset that you should be considering other data points, not stating from the outset that, that my advice is absolute right. The other thing that we always really hammer home is I don't have your perspective, you know, I've learned about your mobile social business now for nine minutes, right? You've been working on it for two years. Same problem I had when I was going to afford it.

Ryan Rutan: What do you think about my business again? We don't, it's not our business.

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. And and and then the last point we always make is look, no matter what I tell you, no matter how certain I may seem about this advice, it's not my decision. And and and Ryan, I think that points to what you just talked about a moment ago, which was the I'm going to hold you accountable again often. Well intended but I can't hold you accountable to a decision that you didn't make. I can't walk in and say here's how you should be doing marketing. Now. I'm going to hold you accountable to my decision. I need you to Yeah, If I'm going to hold somebody accountable, I need to be able to give you the best case for why my data point might make sense. But I can only hold you accountable to your decision, not mine. That's exactly right. And I have to give you the the agency and latitude to be able to make that decision. Here's what I tend to see. And having worked with lots of different incubators again in an advisory capacity in things like a startup, weekend in those different events, doing board work, et cetera. Just having seen a lot of reps on this, I see an advisor get very passionate usually in a good way, by the way, very passionate about why their advice should be followed, and and if you're not passionate about your advice, should you even be giving it right? But to the point that that they would be flat out offended if the founder didn't take it verbatim. Right? So, so it's not really advice, It's a directive and that's also a dangerous place to be.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, well that's that's a great point, man. You know, I think that it's great that advisers get passionate and that they get uh they're they're emphatic in delivering their advice, but I think we have to be super, super careful about this notion of of, you know, it's not our job to direct them, right? You shouldn't walk away from getting advice and feel trapped by that advice, the advice should feel freeing, right? And and so I think that when you apply a lot of passion and you're like, you're super inviting, like, you know, you got to do this, you know, you can do this, this will be great. Um then all of a sudden, now the founder feels trapped by this, that they feel like now their path is narrowed. I know that there's been multiple times where I've walked away from a session feeling now, like, well, if I don't do this, I'm an idiot, right? And that's not necessarily true. In fact, in almost every case it wasn't um I can be an idiot all by myself, I don't need anybody's help to do that. But so like I think, and you said in the article, right, it's not the advisor's job to direct a founder, like an employee, you know, and and I think that this is a two fold, this is a twofold issue. And I think that there are advisers who absolutely will do this and I have founders coming to me all the time asking, they just want to know like, okay, but what should I do? Like? Well, I can't tell you that. I can't I don't want to tell you what the next step is. Right? Let me lay out the the the the frame for you. Well, let's talk about, let's get all the context we need. And then it goes back to the why and what and how and those are the questions that they have to go through, use my perspective and that of anybody else that they've talked to to form their own path forward. Right?

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. Actually, what I've learned and how to be a good advisor is when the few instances where I was sitting across from a good advisor seeking my own advice and kind of why they were so good at it, right? And what I learned was the best advisors armed the founder with better questions to ask, right instead of trying to tell them the answers, which is very much apparent child kind of relationship, they say something to the effect of Ryan, if you really want to dig into this question to this problem here is probably the three questions you should be asking yourself and start with that, what I love about that approach and that's what people did with me because I hate being told what to do, which is why I'm such an an entrepreneur at heart. The best advisors would make me feel empowered by knowing I was heading down the right question, but giving me my own path versus trying to dictate it and it just felt so different. And so now, when I give advice, a lot of what I'm trying to do is say, what about this? What about this? What about this? But you come up with the answer, right? Let's face it, right? Like over time, a lot of our experience has taught us what we should be thinking. I'll give you a good example, often when, when founders are getting started, uh, they get some early traction in the product right there, so excited about it, right? You know, people are signing up or people are buying or people are doing this and they're saying, well, how do I scale this thing and a good advisor steps back and says, how do you know that? What's happening right now has the ability to scale Right? Like has anybody asked you yes, you're selling 10 units a day, Do you know that you could be selling 20 units, do you have any idea that you just assume it's 20 units? You just assume if I'm selling 10 and I could clearly be selling 20? Could you right in when, when when you when you put those questions in front of a founder and have them go, well shoot, I guess I never really thought about that. You know, maybe this isn't ready to scale, that's empowering. That's good advice in my mind.

Ryan Rutan: Absolutely. And so you know, I think that you know this notion of asking questions and arming you with questions and it's really it's two sides of the same coin, you know, when I often present these things in the form of questions. So I asked questions that I know they need to have the answers to in order to come to the right um the right conclusion for themselves. And I often know well in advance of asking the question, they're probably not going to have this data point that I'm asking for. But now just by asking that question, they know they need to go and find it. I don't have to tell them, hey, go go get this data point. Hey, go get the answer to this. Just by asking the question of them and not having the answer for it tells them what they need to know. Let's let's look at the other side of the coin now, which is, you know, we want as advisors, we want to arm our, you know, the people that were advising with good questions, right? So they can go forth, be more curious and get the answers they need to make the right decisions. But what happens from the adviser's side when, when we're asking, you know, we're giving advice without asking questions. Or if you from the founders side, you're getting advice without having, you know, heard questions like, you know, you walk up, you walk into the doctor's office and, uh, and while you're still filling out the form, they come out and they give you the diagnosis. You're like, I haven't even given you my insurance card yet. You know what's wrong with me?

Wil Schroter: Right. Well, I mean, yeah, I mean, imagine that, right? Imagine the doctor is giving you the prognosis and he is you have to ask you any questions about your health.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, exactly.

Wil Schroter: Right. Yeah. And we would

Ryan Rutan: accept that and yet and right in the startup space or like people take this all the time. They're like, well, but but you know, this, this, this person knows your oncologist also knows everything about cancer. You still want to talk to him before you get diagnosed? I think. Right.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And so I think what happens is the advisor is so compelled to give advice, right to give a response. How often do you talk to an advisor? Um, and again, I'm going to, uh, you know, kind of shine the light on or an investor and have them say, you know what? To be honest. I really don't know much at all about your industry and I couldn't possibly tell you how, what to do next,

Ryan Rutan: right? Yeah. You're never going to hear that,

Wil Schroter: which is probably actually the right answer in most cases. Right. Um, for myself, when I get asked advice, the first thing I try to point out to folks is, here's all the areas where I actually just can't be helpful, right? If you're saying, hey, I want to be able to scale my marketing, I can tell you what channels of marketing tender scale, how they tend to work, etcetera. But that's about as far as I can take you at which point you want some some very detailed information about how to set up a campaign or how to write copy or how to do landing page optimization, etcetera. I'd have to be spending a lot of time with you to give you actionable advice there.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, that's exactly it. And I think that actionable advice that that that is such an important piece. Right? So I think that as founders, So now I know you can't see me, but founders, I'm looking right at you right now stop insisting on actionable advice because this puts the adviser in a position where they feel like they have to give you a step to take. It may not get to that point. In a lot of cases. It shouldn't because again, you're the one that has to define that next step. And so I think that one of these, you know, is a tip for seeking good advice? Right? Make sure that this advisers asking questions. But in addition to that don't back them into a corner where they have to answer a question for you right? Because it's not the right approach, you're going to get an answer. And it may well be that it's a sub par or even a bad answer. And I think that it's it's something that we often do to our advisors and again, like they may already feel compelled to give you some takeaway. You specifically say like well you know, what should they take away from these people? What should I go do now? Like they have to answer that write a really brave and really good advisor will tell, you know, I I actually can't do that. Um but I feel like very few people are actually going to do that. They're going to try to answer that question for you.

Wil Schroter: What I found kind of a pro tip that was super helpful for me again, when I was pitching capital or just pitching concepts in general, I often had a slide in there or something in in my collateral. That was basically, here's five questions as as an investor, as an advisor, you probably should be asking right. I haven't seen a lot of people do that by the way. But what it did was it level set like for example when we raised money for afford it. One of the things in the F. A. Q was how many people that are that are underbanked meaning they don't have a bank account or credit facility. How many of those people are currently looking for another solution? Right. And, and so I would, I would basically frame the conversation by giving the investor in this case by advisor the investor the ability to say, huh? There probably are some things I don't know. And the fact that there's a list here kind of reminds me that I probably should be asking more questions and that's what that was intended to do. But it also helped me steer the conversation. If I were a founder that we're seeking advice on things, I would open up the conversation saying just something simple and innocent, which is here are the three questions people tend to ask me the most right, what's beautiful about that is either one, if I'm the advisor, I'm thinking, oh, well I already know the answers to all three of those questions. At least I, I know that they're being presented and considered. But if I don't know the answer to those questions or I'm like, shit, you know, I probably should be digging into this a little bit more. It forces me to be more authentic about my investigation. Sure.

Ryan Rutan: Absolutely.

Wil Schroter: And so for for for both advisers and for founders, this ability to be able to step back show some humility from both sides and say, hey, none of us necessarily knows the perfect answers to your business right now, let's ask the right questions and then lets arrive at some of the conclusions together versus me just telling you what to do. And again, I think that it's that dynamic that's broken.

Ryan Rutan: And often the case the the conclusions that you come to our simply another set of questions that have to go and be answered at that point, right? It's you're basically figuring out what is it that we don't yet know. That's keeping us from getting us to where we want to be. And then that becomes the next exploration, right? But that's the part where the founder has to go off and start to do some things on their own. Once you've received the advice, let's talk about then what do we actually do with this stuff. Right. So, you know, we've gotten some information back. How do we unpack synthesize and apply this stuff?

Wil Schroter: Right. Well, let's, let's start with the opposite. Here's what not to do, ignore all of that and just run with it verbatim.

Ryan Rutan: That doesn't

Wil Schroter: exactly. Um, I think it's a multi stage process for me and and using kind of, some of the principles of idea validation, which is something, you know, we teach a lot of startups. Dot com. The first thing is to ask yourself how qualified is the advice that I'm getting. Sometimes it's hard to assess, but it's worth asking if my rich uncle in commercial real estate is telling me about how to set up and run my mobile app company. I'm sure he's well intended. I'm sure he knows a lot about starting his business, but he doesn't know Jack shit about starting a mobile app business. It doesn't matter how successful he was. Right. It's the whole shark tank mentality right? Here are sharks who have been successful. This person is going to come up and pitch and they start droning on about, you know, their own success and what they've done and it's like, cool, right? That's not your, your qualified and that you're successful. It kind of ends there. The quality of your advice as it relates to what I'm doing right now. Not so much again, until you ask the right questions. So I think qualifying, whether whether the person giving the advice is qualified to give the advice or most appropriate for your business.

Ryan Rutan: Exactly.

Wil Schroter: And then the second thing is, how applicable is it to my situation. Right? So not only might you have been in a different industry, it could have been a different era. It could have been with a different budget. It could be in with a different team. Could have been with different timing. I mean really Ryan, the problem,

Ryan Rutan: Yes, it was with all of those like maybe like 100% everything was different. The

Wil Schroter: problem, The probability that's one for one is almost zero. Right? So you have to dig into.

Ryan Rutan: I've never had anybody ask me that actually like

Wil Schroter: Ryan,

Ryan Rutan: how do I build your business and like, excuse me? Because that's yeah, because that's actually what you're getting. You're getting the framework for building their business.

Wil Schroter: Right? And so I think from an adviser standpoint to be a really good advisor, it's important to be able to say, hey, here's what worked for me. Given my conditions, from what I can tell, here's where my conditions are pretty different than your conditions. So, so kind of ignore this part. Right? You know, I started one of the first web design agencies in 94 and it grew really fast and so people all the time come to me and said, hey, you built a huge web design business. Uh, you know, what can I learn from you, What can I do? And I said, well there are a couple of things that have kind of stayed the same. But dude, I was building web pages in 1990 for a couple of things have changed since then. We only, we only have like 21 tags in. HTML right? Right? You no

Ryan Rutan: longer have to ink the ink the blocks before you print the page. Yeah, yeah,

Wil Schroter: I know it's and it's and so I always try to point out that hey, I can give you some advice on how to scale a professional services business because certainly I've been through it. However, here are the areas where my mileage is going to be very different than yours. Right. I was selling web pages at a time when no one knew what the Internet was. Right. Ain't the same for what you're doing right now, right. Um, and so I think it's incumbent on the adviser, a good advisor to be self aware, enough to be able to see where the startup is, compare that to their own advice and then kind of fill in the gaps a little bit Again, I'm putting the onus there on the on the on the advisor. However, I would try to empower the founder as well to be able to use some of that same filter. Right? Because chances are only a small bit of that advice is gonna be useful.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, the the founders have to be capable of, I mean, we as founders have to be able to do this right? Because an adviser may only give advice once, but we're going to repeatedly seek advice. So we need to make sure that we're armed as founders to do the best job we can do this. The the onus should be on us. Hopefully, the advisors are acting in with with good intentions and with good technique for providing advice. But as founders, we have to be the ones to filter this stuff

Wil Schroter: right? And along those lines, it's our job to make the decisions at which point we're asking our advisors to make the decisions for us or sometimes we implicitly let people make decisions for us. You know, we're at that startup weekend and we've got this great idea for this mobile app that we want to do it somehow. Always mobile app and some advisor comes on and just says, that's a terrible idea. It'll never work in the market and we just pack our ship and go home like, oh, I, I guess it's not a good idea. That's that's that's not their decision to make, that's your decision to make, right? Yeah,

Ryan Rutan: exactly. And you might as well be using Abraham Lincoln as your advisor at this point, just flipping the penny

Wil Schroter: right now? It's A or B. It's, it's really, really difficult for, particularly first time in early founders to understand because they want the advice so badly and they deserve it. But to really understand that just because you're getting advice, that's not the same as you have to take that direction. Right. A good, good, good founder will go out there and try to get as many data points as possible, you know, the essence of idea validation that we talked about earlier and then start to sit back and say, okay, how can I start to synthesize this myself and how can I say, hey, you know what, when I really dig into it, I had three different people give me advice in this business. But when I take them to task for what they really know about my business, none of them really knows. Ergo I need to go get other advice,

Ryan Rutan: other advice, right? It's one of the questions that I routinely ask, What have you already done to try to understand this question that you're asking me and who else have you talked to? Because that that can tell you that because the it changes it completely changes what I'm going to ask them next and and what I'm gonna try to do with them to help them find that answer if they haven't done it, like they're like I haven't even googled it yet, like hey, that's a problem because you shouldn't be seeking advice until you at least set some context for this thing, right? Um and if they haven't talked to anybody else, then it means that I'm going to be the first third party perspective they're getting on this. And I think that as an advisor, you need to be really, really careful in that situation. And and as founders again, like when it's the first data point that you're getting instead of the side, go get some more and then re examine it later, you can't try to take action off that first data point and I think this happens all too often because you know when you're starving, you lied anything and as an advisor, when you're faced with somebody who's really hungry, you want to feed them, but you have to be really careful about how you go about it,

Wil Schroter: right? And I think you need to give the as the adviser, you need to be able to give the founder of the agency to make their own decisions and make it clear that you're there to help guide them on the decisions. But it's their decision in the moment you move into blow hard mode where like, you know, this is the way the world works and your your silly if you're not following it the way I see it, you're doing the founder of this service, right? You're you're basically Neutering them toward making their own decisions, which I think is just a terrible way to get started. Like I I don't want to work with anybody in that capacity.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. That goes back to the notion of feeling trapped by the advice, right? If you've got this guy wearing a monocle and slamming his fist on the table, telling you what you need to do next, it's probably worth ignoring, Right? How can you be that Emphatic about my business.

Wil Schroter: And so so if I had one last thought to all of this, it would be Ryan, when we talked to founders folks that our founders that are listening to this podcast. What I would really implore them to do is get great at asking questions. Get great at qualifying your advisors right? When they say you should do X, Y Z. The next question has to be why, right? There's no reason if advice is good advice, there's no reason it can't be supported. So if you want to be a really ninja freaking founder, you've got to be able to be comfortable asking why? Constantly questioning the advice. Uh, and by the way, it will never backfire on you. Like it's the healthiest thing you could possibly do, including, hey brian, what do you say? Including all the advice we just gave the last half hour to 45 minutes. If you're not questioning everything that we just said, you're not really getting our message.

Ryan Rutan: I feel like our inbox just filled up. I think podcast that literally just overflowed with 5000 messages with just a single question why

Wil Schroter: we're

Ryan Rutan: gonna, we're gonna be spending a lot of time typing over the next couple of days. Well well played. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com Family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe, rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy, you can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs, visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e g i N. You'll thank me later.

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