Tristan Kromer: You Can Tell a Good Advisor by Their Questions

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Customer Development, Lean Startup, skmurphy

Three interesting answers from Tristan Kromer’s interview with the folks at Startup Commons

Startup Commons: What’s the best way to get started?
Tristan Kromer:  Find someone you really want to help. Someone in pain. That’s your vision. Helping someone and solving a real problem. Find team members with complementary skill sets who are able to challenge your perspective and add their own. Go talk to customers.

I think this is the best anchor for starting a new firm: focus on a need or  a pain experienced by a particular  customer. Pick a problem you are willing to work on for a while because nothing new ever works and it’s going to take a while to figure out all of the elements of a successful business. A few firms with a serious problem are a better start than many firms with a small problem, although the latter may be easier to find, the former are far more likely to take action.

Startup Commons: How to find a good mentor for your startup?
Tristan Kromer: Look for someone who doesn’t give you their opinion but instead challenges you with questions that makes you think.

I agree with Tristan it’s in the questions but like Conor Neill’s formulation: it’s “80% Diagnosis and 20% Prescription.” A good mentor will suggest some courses of action to consider after they have helped you to explore the constraints and implications of the situation–or insurmountable opportunity–you are wrestling with.

Startup Commons: Who are your mentors?
Tristan Kromer: My team is my mentor. The customer is my mentor. My friends are my mentors. I rely on other people to challenge my perspective. People like Sean Murphy, Spike Morelli, Laura Klein, Nick Noreña, Zac Halbert, Janice Fraser. People who are willing to question me or tell me I’m wrong.

I think this is the next step in the evolution of the Lean Startup movement, it has to become a community of practice where entrepreneurs at differing skill levels can compare notes , challenge each other and hold each other account.  It’s a mistake to look at the early writing by Eric Ries and Steve Blank as scripture, it’s a good start that we will be refining and extending for decades. There is also earlier work by Peter Drucker, Edward McQuarrie, Rita McGrath, Saras Sarasvathy, Mark Leslie, Clayton Christensen, Russell Ackoff, Dave Snowden, and Gary Klein–just to name a few–that for the most part is not as well appreciated by entrepreneurs as it should be.

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.”
Francis Bacon

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