The Worst Advice for Entrepreneurs

How do you know who do listen to?

When you decide to start a new business, everyone from your spouse, your mother, your friends, even your mailman, has an opinion. If you bring up your new entrepreneurial pursuits at dinner you will get a flood of advice about things you should or shouldn’t do. Don’t get me started about what happens when you turn to Google for help.

Some of this advice will be helpful and some will not. But no matter what, I guarantee you that you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of opinions you get. It’s your job to sort out the good advice from the bad, a task that is more difficult than it seems.

Good advice can come from surprising places. The same is true about bad advice. A seasoned real estate expert might give you bad advice while your gym trainer, who has a history of successfully flipping houses, might give you a nugget of wisdom that changes your perspective.

In addition, advice that’s bad for you might be immensely helpful to someone else. So as you start down your new path as an entrepreneur, the first lesson is learning how to decide which advice you’ll listen to.

How do you tell the good from the bad?

When trying to determine if the advice you’re receiving is good or bad, it’s best to start by looking at who is giving you the advice and what their purpose is for giving it to you.

Start by looking at who is giving you the advice. Does this person have experience doing what you want to do? Do they know what they’re talking about? Do their actions match their words?

Just because your Uncle Bob talks a big game, doesn’t mean he has the expertise to back it up. But, your neighbor who you never knew ran a successful Amazon store, might be a great person to listen to.

But experience is not the only thing you need to consider when vetting your sources. Looking at the person’s intentions is also helpful. They might have many reasons for giving you advice. Maybe they’re looking to intimidate you or impress you with their confidence. More often than not, they are trying to sell you something. Either way, not everyone has your best interests at heart when they offer advice.

When you listen to advice, make sure the person giving it genuinely cares for you and your success. Their ego or wallet should not come into play at all, rather they should be motivated by a desire to see you succeed.

Some common bad advice

Below, I’ve listed some of the most common bad advice entrepreneurs get when they’re first starting out. Be very wary of anyone offering you these pearls of “wisdom.”

“Don’t do it”

The most common form of advice is to simply not do it. Everyone will have this advice in the beginning, particularly if it’s your first business or if you’re leaving your steady paycheck job to pursue it.

This advice comes in all shapes and forms. They will tell you horror stories of people who tried and failed to start businesses. They will remind you of the many reasons you should stay in your “safe” job and not risk your money and time.

Even seasoned entrepreneurs still get this advice. Robert and I often hear people telling us not to take risks, expand into new investments, or grow certain parts of our company. But we’ve learned over time to tune them out and do what we feel is right.

Unless your business involves jumping out of a plane without a parachute, don’t listen to this advice. Don’t let other people’s insecurities and doubts hold you back from changing your life for the better.

“Be Like This Business/Person”

Everyone is going to want to compare your business to another. Even you might fall into that trap when describing your new venture. Comparisons can be useful, as long as they don’t hold you back from building a business that works for you.

Your business should be unique to your values, goals, and priorities. There are some great business models out there that can be starting points when you’re outlining your structure. But don’t try to copy and paste their business plan exactly.

Use your creativity and build a business that’s yours, and no one else’s. And when people try to tell you to do things like someone else, remind them that you are your own person.

“Go back to school first”

This was Robert’s poor dad’s favorite piece of advice. His father was an educator, and he believed that Robert should go back to school, get his MBA, maybe even his PhD. A lot of people will tell you that you should get your MBA before starting a business.

There’s nothing wrong with going back to school. A lot of people find value in getting another degree. But let’s be clear: You don’t need an MBA or a college degree to start a business.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time were college, even high school dropouts. I’m not advocating that you follow their example (again, you are your own person). But don’t listen to the advice that you have to go back to school or get this or that degree before you can start a successful business.

“A real business needs ______”

Fill in the line above with: “people” or “office space” or “business cards” or “investors” and you get the idea. People will tell you all the things you need to start a business. But for most entrepreneurs, all they truly require is an idea and a computer.

Remember, we live in an age of information, where resources and talent are available at the touch of a button.

You don’t have to hire a full team of people to run a real business. Some of the most successful startups today began by outsourcing a lot of their work to freelancers, contractors, and virtual assistants. You can get the help you need for a fraction of the price. Not to mention the technology available that can automate a lot of your tasks.

You don’t even need office space anymore. You can work from your kitchen, from Starbucks, or even the public library. Anywhere you have an internet connection.

People often get overwhelmed when starting a business, thinking they need all the things we usually associate with companies. Big mahogany desks, a fancy business card, a flashy website. Maybe you’ll want those things or not, but the point is that businesses are more versatile and flexible than ever. You can build a business the way you want.

The only advice that matters

There is so much advice out there when you’re starting your business. This can be comforting, and provide you with great ideas and direction. It can also be overwhelming, because many times the advice you receive contradicts itself.

That’s why, at the end of the day, the only person you really need to listen to is yourself. Listen to advice, collect opinions, thank people for their words, and then do what you want to do. That’s how successful entrepreneurs are made.

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