The Art of the WordPress Startup: Part 9

Startup Advice

This post is part 9 of a series on how to launch your startup on WordPress. Last time I talked about how to start your company on WordPress if you’re broke. Today’s post is about something you hardly ever hear mentioned. How to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to getting startup advice, whether it’s from a fellow founder friend/acquaintance, a famous founder’s blog, or a guest post. Not learning this key ingredient means you’ll waste a lot of time spinning your wheels. And when you first start out, everyone and their neighbor will want to give you their two cents so be prepared.

Philosophical vs. Practical Advice

Some blogs, writers, and founders tend to offer what many call philosophical advice, rather than practical advice. That means they give their opinion at a high level about a particular approach to things, without giving hard details. This type of advice is hard to do much with. You’re likely going to form your own product philosophy along the way (among other things) and should focus on getting practical advice instead. There are only so many hours in the day.

Getting practical advice is easier than you think. There are many blogs, writers, and founders who offer it; the important thing is to be able to recognize it. For example, Neil Patel of Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics fame offers practical advice on his blog. Last year he wrote a post about how to do an SEO audit that got lots of traction because of its level of detail. That is the kind of stuff which you can easily take action on. A philosophical post debating whether SEO or CPC is the best route to begin with is less helpful. You’re better off trying a lot of things and seeing what works for your particular startup built on top of WordPress.

Your Mileage May Vary

Whenever taking advice whether in spoken or written form, it’s important to keep in mind that your mileage may vary in the sense that your own industry, approach, experiences, and time period are likely to be much different than whoever you’re receiving advice from. For example, if your mentor is 75 and ran a software consulting firm 20 years ago, keep in mind that although their experience is valuable and they may have some good tips, your experience is likely to be much different now since things have changed quite a bit. In fact, in technology things change quite a bit every 5 years so it’s all the more important to focus in on advice that is chronologically relevant. For example, when I do research for SEO or CPC techniques or tactics, I always narrow the results to the past month when possible, and the past year at the most. Anything beyond that is simply out of date and things have probably changed since it was written.

Motives

Another thing to keep in mind when taking or reading advice with regards to your startup is the motive of the person giving it. Guest posts on blogs are notorious for having slanted views like this. For example, if someone who works in Big Data does a post about marketing, they’ll argue that decisions should be based solely on big data and that surprise, their tool is the best solution to use. They’ll say things like “SEO is Dead” which doesn’t make much sense as long as organic rankings are around, but you’ll see bold statements like that thrown around a lot.

When you’re taking advice from a fellow rounder or in particular an investor, always keep the motive in mind as well. Some angels and VCs will give you advice without any motives behind it, and that’s a good thing. However some will give you advice that’s slanted in one fashion or another, and that’s just the nature of things. If a fellow founder is giving you advice, keep in mind the angle they’re shooting from. Do they run a particular type of startup and hence their view is biased?

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Reading Up

When you first start out, you want to read and learn as much as you can. Reading as many founder’s stories as possible seems like a good idea. It also seems like a good idea to buy all the current catchy startup books and to devour them also. The problem is, if you’re launching a startup, regardless of whether it’s a product or service business, you’re going to be extremely busy and have little time for that. Also, do you think Mark Zuckerberg spent all his time reading books like that? Or do you think he just got to work and read a few here and there when he found little pockets of free time? My guess is the latter.

Analysis Paralysis

The final point I’d like to make is to avoid analysis paralysis when doing research on whatever it is you’re trying to figure out. Analysis paralysis means you bite off more than you can chew in the research phase to the point that you spend all your time researching and never getting what it is you wanted to get done in the first place. For example, let’s say you wanted to find a provider for recurring billing for your startup. You could spend an infinite amount of time reading articles about the various top players, and in this particular case there might be 5-8 potential companies you could do research on. Trying to get the full picture on 5-8 companies and going through all their demos would take up quite a bit of time, and before you know it days, weeks, or worse yet months have gone by and you haven’t even began implementation. Happens more often than you’d think.

Do yourself a favor, and do some quick high level research to quickly narrow it down to the top 3 providers. I typically narrow it using a variety of methods. Sometimes it’s seeing which ones have the most traction and media coverage, other times it’s seeing who their investors are, and sometimes it’s by reading a few threads on Quora to see what other legitimate startups are using. Once you’ve narrowed your list to 3 companies you can pretty easily do their demos, make a quick feature comparison chart (or even better find someone who already did), and get to the decision making and implementation phase. What might seem like a good thing (too many choices) is actually a bad thing when you’re running a startup and are strapped for time.

Full Series — Click here to see all articles in this series.