How to Avoid Mentor Whiplash (Founder's Guide) - Summary
- Understanding Mentor Whiplash
- Challenges Incorporating Feedback into Your Pitch Deck
- What if I Don’t Agree with Feedback I Get on my Pitch Deck?
- Corroborate their advice
- Take it with a grain of salt
- Get advice from a pitch expert
- What to Do About Conflicting Pitch Deck Advice (Step-by-Step)
- Take Only the Advice that Matters Most and Move Forward
Understanding Mentor Whiplash
If you have multiple mentors take a look at your pitch deck, you will probably get conflicting information about how to make changes and perfect that pitch deck. We call this mentor whiplash - Too many conflicting points of view leave the founder confused, insecure, and unsure of how to navigate the back and forth of different opinions they get from their many mentors. It can be really challenging to find the signal through all of the conflicting advice noise.
The startup community is tightly connected. It provides a lot of opportunities to network and to collaborate with other people. When you are pitching or putting together pitch decks--and you have access to a startup community in your city--you might find that you can reach investors early on by asking them to be mentors. And, there may be mentors that are specialist in your particular field who you can meet and lean on as well. You may even find that colleagues of yours are willing to help you out as you build your startup.
Prior to actually pitching investors or customers, you should ask for feedback or advice on your pitch and pitch deck from your mentors and other knowledgeable business resources. In addition, you may want to get many different people’s feedback and advice on the pitch deck to make sure your message is being delivered and received the way it's intended.
Challenges Incorporating Feedback into Your Pitch Deck
When you get feedback from many different people, there are a couple of challenges that you may face. You might get feedback that you do not particularly agree with and at the same time you may get feedback that is conflicting directions from different sources.
What if I Don’t Agree with Feedback I Get?
When you asked for that feedback on your pitch deck in the first place, you were trying to perfect your pitch. Often times the mentor is a potential investor, so in those cases you are also trying to impress that person and continuing to get them interested and engaged in your company at the same time. Perhaps even making them feel included in the growth and decision making at your company early on. Their opinion is valued. In this scenario it can be especially challenging if you don’t agree with what is being said or suggested.
When determining how to handle not agreeing with the feedback you've received or when it is not valuable feedback, keep the following in mind....
In the end you are the steward of your company, of the pitch deck, of your pitch, and of making sure that your message is being told right. Everyone else is there to help, but they are coming at it from a different perspective than you are and it is YOU that truly knows your business the best. You are the only one, after all, with the entire picture.
For this reason, we think you should listen and pay attention to your own thoughts and gut reactions on people’s feedback. Do not blindly take advice You are the founder and you have to live with the results of your decisions. Own your decisions and make any advice you take your own. If you can't own it, then that's a strong indicator it's not a good fit.
What to Do About Conflicting Advice? (Step-by-Step)
- Make sure you corroborate their advice – see if someone else thinks it as well
- Take it with a grain of salt – think about where advice is coming from
- Get advice from a pitch expert - See if you can get advice from an expert that is more holistic then the advice you get from a mentor who has a more limited scope or limited experience when it comes to pitching and pitch decks
1. Corroborate It
First, see if you can corroborate that advice. Take your deck to someone else and ask them for help, “This is what I heard someone say about this slide, what do you think?”
Don’t tell them that you disagree or cloud their thought process whatsoever. This will help you see if you get the same advice from someone else or if they agree or disagree with the advice. It can be really helpful to see whether multiple people see the problem originally told to you. Whether it’s something that many people are suggesting or recommending or something you never hear again, this should give you insight into how accurate the critique is. If many people have suggested the same change then there’s no need to do the next step - that's corroboration.
2. Take Advice With a Grain of Salt
Another thing you can do is take any advice that you get with a grain of salt. For this we recommend that you consider the source. For example, if you have an investor or a finance-minded individual who is giving you advice about the financial slide in your pitch deck or the part where you are explaining your financial projections, they might be a very worthwhile person to listen to. Don't take this person's feedback lightly.
If that same person is giving you advice on how your deck looks, you might want to consider the source. What does a finance guy know about design? They might know something, but they are far from experts so consider the source. Are they as experienced as they should be to be giving you that particular advice?
Really think about who is giving you advice, what their background is, and what they are bringing to the table when they give you feedback.
3. Get Advice from an Expert (like us)
Last, what I think you should really do is get advice from an expert as well. This is not a shameless plug but rather the whole reason Pitch Deck Fire exists. Pitch deck design experts and funding specialists can help you cut through the noise. Our passion is ensuring that our client-founders are well prepared for what is often a new and uncomfortable journey. We've seen everything before, so we can give clear, actionable advice that works.
If you are getting advice from lots of mentors and potential investors. Make sure that you also get advice from people who are experts in the pitching and pitch deck space. Here at Pitch Deck Fire, we often give pitch reviews and pitch coaching services to previous pitch deck clients as well as clients that we haven’t done a pitch deck with us, but who want to understand more about how to fine tune their deck and perfect their pitch. These founders work with us to ensure they are practicing and speaking in the right way. They want to convey the right information the first time with investors because they know that might be the last time they get the opportunity. Ensuring your pitch deck and pitch work in tandem to clearly conveying the business case is really important in getting investors to the table.
After getting advice from an expert, if they say some of the same things as your mentor, then it's likely that feedback is something you need to change.
Take Only the Advice that Matters Most and Move Forward
In the end, you end up disagreeing with the advice. But, what if it was given by someone you trust? Someone you want to be engaged in the ongoing effort of your company? Someone critical to the fundraise success? This person matters and you don’t necessarily want to evade their advice, tell them that they are wrong, or not use their advice at all. What do you do?
The Right Thing for your Business is the Right Thing
Our stance is that while that relationship is very important, you really want to make sure you are putting the right face forward for your company. It’s your job to do that. Establishing strong boundaries early will make your relationships stronger and doing what's best for your company will make a successful business.
You can always find a way to communicate with that potential investor or mentor who gave you a piece of advice, saying “Thank you so much for giving me this advice. I have done x, y, z that you recommended but decided not to do a, b, c for this reason.”
It's likely they will know they are not all-knowing. And their response might reflect something like, “Yeah, I did not think that was the best piece of advice anyways”. They are not likely to say, “Because you did not take this one piece of advice, I’m no longer going to be your mentor”. If they are good mentors they will have your best interest at heart more than their own ego.
Just Because They Say It, Does Not Mean You Need to Do It
Consider that although it is true they are giving you advice, it is not true that you have to do what your mentor or investors say. In the end they are just trying to help, and fundraising is just as much art as it is science.
No one knows what every investor wants; not even investors themselves. The best way for your mentors to help is for them to give the advice that they can. With this advice, you take what matters and move forward with that. That's why you are the founder not the mentor. Take action.
If you have received feedback that you didn’t like and figured out a good way to handle it, please leave a comment in the comments below. Questions or Comments? We would love to hear from you.
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