Whether you are starting or growing a business, chances are you have been barraged with advice from well-meaning friends, family, coworkers, neighbours, and acquaintances. All of them have an opinion and want to be heard, but not all advice is equal. Here are some of the worst pieces of advice we see small business owners receiving over and over.
- “Copy Your Competition”: There is nothing wrong with learning valuable business lessons through observation, but what works for one business will not always work for another. Business owners should be mindful of what their competition is doing and strive to differentiate themselves from the competition to build your own unique brand.
- “Wait for the Perfect Time”: Spoiler alert: there is no perfect time to start a business. There will always be other important professional and personal things to do, limited resources, and unknowns so you may as well just go for it! Don’t let other people dictate when you launch your business, follow your gut and make your own call as to when the right time is for you.
- “Never Partner Up”: If school has taught us anything, it is that partner work can be difficult, and in some cases you should steer clear of it. However, having a business partner can be extremely beneficial – that is, as long as you see eye to eye on important issues and have excellent communication. The responsibility and stress of starting your own business is high, and being able to share that with a partner can increase your ability to be successful.
- “Let the Customers Tell You What They Want”: This may seem like sound advice, but customers don’t always know what they want, may not be willing to pay for what they claim to want, or even know they have a problem worth solving. That said, you should always try to collect customer feedback.
- “Take Any and All Work That Comes Your Way”: It can be tempting to try to take on every new project or customer, but you need to make sure you have enough time, the ability to maintain a strong level of quality, and can remain focused on your speciality/niche. MaryBeth Hyland, Founder of SparkVision says: “Entertain all the work that comes your way, but be sure it aligns with your company’s vision.”
- “Never Borrow Money to Grow Your Business”: Entrepreneurs can fund their business through equity or debt. The truth is that most successful companies, big and small, have a balance of both. Debt is often more flexible, easier to obtain and pay back, and costs less in the long run because you aren’t giving up ownership of your company. It is important to understand your small business funding options though, because not all options are equal.
- “You Need a Business Degree to Be Successful”: In the case of this advice, nothing could be farther from the truth. While it can be highly beneficial to have a business degree to help you on your entrepreneurial journey, there are many successful business owners from non-traditional backgrounds. Basically, if pursuing an education is right for you, then you’ll know; you don’t need to let unsolicited advice cause you to second guess yourself.
It is your choice who you listen to on your journey as an entrepreneur. With an open mind and willingness to evaluate each piece of advice (while factoring in who it is coming from), you should be in a good position to get the best results for your business.