Going With Your Gut

OCTOBER 7, 2013


Katie Bartels is a New York-based jewelry designer with a classic quarterlette story.  A few years ago she quit her stable day job to follow her creative passion, and she hasn’t looked back.  Check back often for Katie’s musings on her life as an entrepreneur, designer, and quarterlette.

“Trust your instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.”  – Billy Wilder

I periodically take a little time to reflect on business decisions I’ve made, how they turned out, what I’d do differently, what worked, etc. During my most recent self-business evaluation I asked myself: “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?” The answer came to me right away: when it comes to entering a business relationship, always do your research on the other party; but at the end of the day, make your decision to say “yes” or “no” based on your gut instinct.

There have been several instances in my business where an opportunity has been presented to me that at first glance appeared to be a good move.  A friend or acquaintance in the industry will suggest an accessories show to participate in, a store to sell my designs, or an individual to assist me with a project. They will use the magic words: “this would be huge for you.” I get excited and daydream about the potential positive results for my company, but then I go into research and evaluation mode.

When I just started my company, I had a “why not” attitude,  trying to to take advantage of most opportunities presented to me. When I look back, I’m glad this was my attitude. First of all, you never know where something might lead. Second, you learn a tremendous amount from making mistakes. Every partnership I agreed to that did not end up being a good move for my company had one thing in common: at some point in the initial stages I would get a gut feeling of doubt. But, not wanting to miss an opportunity, I would go forward anyway. And each and every time that my gut reaction was one of reservation; eventually I would have to end the relationship because predictably the other party would do things that were not consistent with my brand image or goals.

A very important reason to listen to your gut is the extreme stress that results from going along with something that makes you feel uncomfortable.  When you own your own business, it’s very hard to separate yourself from your work. Even when you take a day off or go home at the end of the day, chances are your business is in your thoughts. And, thus, when you feel your business is in a less than ideal situation, sleepless nights and a constant feeling of anxiety and being unsettled are typical. That stress is not conducive to productivity or happiness and it will unquestionably affect your business.

Passing up on an opportunity is honestly one of the hardest things you can do in business because there is always that chance that things will turn out for the best. Always doing an adequate amount of research on the other party and considering entering into a trial period of one to three months are important steps. But experience has taught me that if your gut says, “something is off here”, chances are there is something off and the opportunity will turn out to be more harmful than positive for your business. There will always be a lot of noise around you, whether it be from friends and advisors or from the other party. At the end of the day, the only noise that really matters is your gut because you know yourself and your business better than anyone else.


  • Jessica Turner 4 years ago

    As someone who is considering focusing on a small business venture, this was really helpful and inspiring. Thanks, Katie! Looking forward to more posts from you.