The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made?” is written by Jodi Goldstein, managing director of Harvard Innovation Labs.
When I was graduating from Harvard Business School in the late '90s, there was nothing I wanted more than to join a startup. I received plenty of advice from trusted mentors suggesting that I instead take a corporate job. This seemed to make more logical sense in terms of financial and career stability, but all I wanted to do was pursue an entrepreneurial path.
After seeking advice from a number of people, one of my professors told me that getting experience at an early-stage venture would be a valuable way to start my post-business school life. I decided to take his advice and join a startup, which aligned with my passion, but ignored the very thoughtful input from many other individuals who I both trusted and respected.
This was one of my best business decisions, but not for the reason you might think. I don’t consider the act of joining the startup itself to be the “best” decision, but rather, the act of seeking feedback from multiple people, and making a decision that balanced their feedback with my own interests.
I like to call the process “informed, intuition-based” decision-making. It’s when you actively seek advice, but don’t follow it blindly. Looking at it from another perspective, it’s the balance of taking your gut into account, but not letting your intuition be the sole driver of your actions. I’ve made some of my best business decisions using this process, from working with the PlanetAll team on an Amazon (amzn) exit of $100 million, to founding mobile wine company Drync, to deciding to join the founding team of the Harvard Innovation Labs.
While I encourage entrepreneurs to follow this balanced approach to decision making, it takes time to develop. Many of the entrepreneurs I’ve mentored follow one of two extremes: They are either overly reliant on advice and don’t take their personal feelings into account, or they rarely listen to advice, relying solely on their intuition.
For entrepreneurs who are interested in developing their ability to make business decisions that balance expert advice with their own intuition and passion, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Vet the people you’re soliciting advice from
In the startup world, you will regularly cross paths with very confident life coaches, entrepreneurs, and corporate executives who brag about their successes, and claim that they know what’s best for you and your business. While I encourage you to listen to advice when someone is offering it, also make sure you look closely at the background of the person who is advising you. If it’s someone who does in fact have a demonstrated history of success, and is clearly knowledgeable about the industry you’re working in, you might want to take their advice seriously.
Solicit advice from people with diverse backgrounds
As I’ve written about previously, make sure that you’re surrounding yourself with advisors who come from diverse backgrounds. Yes, it’s great to get guidance from people who have worked in your industry before, but it’s equally important to seek perspective from individuals outside of your industry who have demonstrated success in other areas of business and life. Whenever possible, I’d also ask for advice from your customers, as well as family and close friends.
Don’t let your gut be driven by short-term financial interests
As an entrepreneur, the temptation can be to make decisions based on what will most likely lead to the best short-term financial outcome. While the prospect of making more money is always attractive to early-stage companies, I’ve found that taking actions solely on the promise of quick financial gains often involves compromising your morals, and often derails your business or sends it in an unintended direction. Stay focused on your mission, even if it means possibly foregoing short-term financial rewards.
Follow your passion, even when advisors say otherwise
There’s no best practice for deciding when you should go in a different direction from what people are advising you to do. I’ve found through my career that, if the advice you’re getting is to stop working on something that you’re truly passionate about, or to not solve a problem that you desperately want to solve, the advice isn’t worth taking.
The best entrepreneurs are the ones who are so committed and passionate about what they’re working on that very little will stop them, no matter how great the obstacles. If you’re an entrepreneur who has this drive, continue to seek out trusted mentors, but make sure that their advice does not hinder you from following your passion.