The trials and tribulations of asking for advice

Do I really want to know the truth? By Rachel Bridge

There are two kinds of entrepreneurs. Those who naturally seek out and take as much advice as they can get. And the rest of us who are a tad more reluctant. But, argues Rachel Bridge, seeking wise words from someone who knows more than you must make sense. So what’s stopping you putting yourself out there?

We all know that no woman or man #VOOMs alone. To paraphrase Richard Branson, one of the smartest things you can do is find and hire people who are smarter than you. But why should you share your precious ideas with someone else? And can you hack whatever feedback they might have?

Why do it?

Taking advice can be tough for founders; often, we’re so bound up in our businesses – physically, emotionally, financially – that it’s hard to see how anyone could have anything to offer. But that’s exactly it – perhaps to you, it’s gotten to the point of all wood and no trees. A more dispassionate observer might be able to spot opportunities and solve problems in ways you wouldn’t have considered.

It goes without saying that you won’t always agree with what other people suggest. The process of talking through why an idea is bad can be worthwhile – it can lead to a better one.


A quick #voom case study

Dan Hubert won the People’s Choice Award in #VOOM 2015 for his parking website AppyParking. In the beginning, Dan sought advice all over the place: “I didn’t know anything so I basically bombarded anyone who was business oriented. I just kept on asking questions – to as many people as I possibly could, until I’d collected enough pieces of the jigsaw to make my own picture.”

Then, when Dan was accepted onto a three-month accelerator programme, he had access to three mentors, who helped him focus on the right bits of the business at the right times. He says: “It was like having an agony aunt.  I was steered in the right direction and focused on what I needed to be doing. It was really useful.”

Where to start?

Well, you’re already here. For easy-to-digest bits of advice, take a look at our bitesize advice series: There’s something you should know.

Next up, Virgin Media Pioneers is a goldmine for entrepreneurs. It’s an online community that’s free to join; once you’re in, you’re instantly connected to a super-engaged community of small business owners, mentors and experts. You can join conversations, ask questions and get feedback on your ideas.

The final step is perhaps the scarier one. You need to find people in your industry who can give you the lowdown. ‘Networking’ is a vague term for this, and showing your face at cocktail parties won’t cut it. So draw up a list of people whose opinions you respect and then approach them – ask if they fancy a chat. Fifteen minutes with the right person could improve your business dramatically.

Do you need a mentor?

Ryan Kuder was managing director of the Virgin Media Accelerator – a three-month mentorship programme, powered by Techstars. He says: “We believe mentoring is one of the best ways to help entrepreneurs. In fact, we've built our programme around recruiting great mentors who are willing to give back of their time, experience, and connections to help early stage founders. They're the foundation of what we do. Good mentors can help you see patterns you may otherwise miss, spot small problems before they become big problems, help you work through situations you've never been in before, and help you get connected with the right people.”

Everything with a pinch of salt

Advice is only as good as the person giving it. Always ask yourself: what experience does this person have in this area? Have they ever run a business themselves? How successful were they? Remember, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. But listen to what people have to say, think about it carefully, and make a decision you feel is the best fit.And if you were right all along, now you have more information and other perspectives, you can hit the plan in hand with even more #VOOM.

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