Fifteen years ago I started a business from the second bedroom of my apartment. I had very limited funds and no experience in the sector that I intended to operate in. Before I started I shared my business plan with my friends and family. The majority of them advised me against proceeding. A good mate of mine, who is now an extremely successful businessman in his own right, told me bluntly – “forget about it mate; it’ll never work.” Other people were more diplomatic but their advice was the same – don’t do it.

Today that business is the market leader in its sector and it continues to grow every year. It has a great brand that is recognised widely by consumers across Australia and New Zealand. In short, it was (and is) a winner.

All the advice that people gave me early on was well-intentioned. Certainly none of it was mean-spirited. In their minds they were looking after my best interests. My good mate now tells me – “mate, don’t listen to me – what would I know!”

The point is I listened to their counsel but I made my own decisions. I had done the work (they hadn’t) and I knew that there was risk involved but that success was possible with hard work and some luck. I pushed the button, moved forward and never looked back.

The writer, GK Chesterton, once wrote “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” He makes a good point and that is to listen to your own instincts and trust your gut when making key business and life decisions. Sometimes you’ll need to take calculated risks but that is quite different from being rash or making ill-informed decisions.

The worst business decisions that I have made were when I placed more faith in the advice of others (incl. so-called “experts”) than I did in my (gut) instincts. Basically when I trust my gut I mostly do well; when I ignore my gut I do badly. I don’t make snap decisions but neither do I delay unnecessarily. I get outside advice when I need to. I collect information from wherever I can. I need to know enough, but not everything, to allow me to make an educated choice. When I feel uncomfortable I don’t proceed. Admittedly, I’ve gotten better at this as the years go by.

The trick in trusting your gut is to block out all the extraneous noise and distractions around you. Focus closely on the essence of the matter at hand and pull it apart until you understand it at its core. This will simplify the decision making process. Most issues are a lot less complicated than they first appear.

Trusting your gut is an important business skill. You get better at it with experience. Kenny Rogers’ famous line “you got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run” sums it up nicely. Thankfully in 1995 I trusted my instincts and decided to hold ‘em, despite widespread advice to fold ‘em. I’m glad I listened to my gut…

Have a great week.