Mentoring

Some advice about professional advice

 

This is a short, but I hope, important article for later stage startup founders.

I frequently talk to startup founders who tell me what they believe they can and cannot do based on legal or financial advice. Often this is misguided and frequently it is wrong.

When I was a teenager I took driving lessons with a professional driving instructor who taught me how to drive. He gave me sound advice such as “always hold the steering wheel with both hands”, “always drive 5 mph below the speed limit” and “don’t drive in hazardous conditions such as snow or heavy rain”. All of this advice is good and all of it I now ignore. Why? Because I am an experienced driver and I now know better. I am not a professional driver, so I do not know what to teach a learner in order to pass a test, but as a competent driver, following the sound advice I was given would now be counter productive and restrict my life.

This is a great analogy for professional advice. Nothing you are told by lawyers and accountants is wrong, or even bad advice, but it is often not the best advice for the real world. Just as it is impractical to stop driving every time it rains or snows, advice such as not signing a contract because of its terms or depreciating an asset is perfectly sound advice, but also frequently wrong.

While as a startup founder, just as a learner driver, you have no better option than to follow that advice. As you progress, try to understand the legal and financials quickly as possible, so that you no longer need to rely on sound, disadvantageous professional advice.

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