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Startup Insights: Listen to Experts and You're Damned if You Do and Damned if you Don't

Experts seem to be in increasing supply these days. Self-published authors, pundits, advisors, folks who succeeded once, life coaches, sales coaches, and on and on and on. The oversupply of "expertise" creates a double-edge sword for startups: sage advice is seemingly everywhere, however, how do you know filter through what might work best for you? 

Our answer - trust your instincts. Why? Let's take the scenario that you listen to an "expert" and you somehow fail. The blame still rests with you. On the other hand, if you succeed, the credit still ultimately rests with you.

There is a great article by Warren Buffet which was published in the Fall, 1984 Columbia School of Business magazine, Hermes titled The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville.

 

I would like you to imagine a national coin-flipping contest. Let's assume we get 225 million Americans up tomorrow morning and we ask them all to wager a dollar. They go out in the morning at sunrise, and they all call the flip of a coin. If they call correctly, they win a dollar from those who called wrong. Each day the losers drop out, and on the subsequent day the stakes build as all previous winnings are put on the line. After ten flips on ten mornings, there will be approximately 220,000 people in the United States who have correctly called ten flips in a row. They each will have won a little over $1,000.

 

Now this group will probably start getting a little puffed up about this, human nature being what it is. They may try to be modest, but at cocktail parties they will occasionally admit to attractive members of the opposite sex what their technique is, and what marvelous insights they bring to the field of flipping.

 

Assuming that the winners are getting the appropriate rewards from the losers, in another ten days we will have 215 people who have successfully called their coin flips 20 times in a row and who, by this exercise, each have turned one dollar into a little over $1 million. $225 million would have been lost, $225 million would have been won.

 

By then, this group will really lose their heads. They will probably write books on "How I turned a Dollar into a Million in Twenty Days Working Thirty Seconds a Morning." Worse yet, they'll probably start jetting around the country attending seminars on efficient coin-flipping and tackling skeptical professors with, " If it can't be done, why are there 215 of us?"

 

Experts are sometimes considered as such in spite of what they have actually done. That's where you come in. At the end of the day, you are the only expert that matters. How do you successfully determine, time and time again, the right decision for your company? Gather enough data, but not too much to paralyze your thoughts, and when the time comes to take action trust your gut.

Good luck!

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