There are certain times in your life when you’re likely to get more advice than you would ever think to ask for: when you graduate college, when you get married, when you have a baby, when you are debating a new haircut, and when you start a new business. It can be tricky to know which advice is solid and worth considering, which is merely inapplicable to your particular business venture, and which is downright antithetical to your success. The best advice we have (see what we did there?): know your source, and trust your own expertise. Unless someone is an accomplished professional in your exact industry, odd are that you already know more about what it takes to make your startup thrive than the person giving you advice. And even if their advice is sound, give yourself some credit – there’s a fine line between being open-minded to valuable input from other people, and being a self-doubting flake who will go in any direction they’re pointed. The former is more likely to be an incredible entrepreneur; the latter isn’t going anywhere special.
All of that considered, we’ve identified a short list of the most common, and most potentially dangerous pieces of advice you’re likely to get as a budding small business owner:
- Cater to trends
Being aware of market trends, and having an eye to see down the road, will help you be more responsive to your customers, and keep you ahead of your competitors. But there’s a big difference in being key to sea changes in your industry and being a company who frantically runs around trying to cater to fickle trends. Don’t listen to anyone who advises you to rework your entire business plan based on flimsy or temporary shifts and trends. Not everyone sees the big picture – make sure you do.
- Go it alone
For some reason, there will always be people who will attempt to convince you that certain members of your startup team – even equal partners – are expendable. Supposed rationale is that if you do it all yourself, you’ll reap all the rewards. Anyone with half a brain for business knows that this is a selfish and shortsighted approach. Clearly, it behooves you to be selective about assembling a team of people whose skills and experience balance your own to give your startup the strongest overall force driving it. Once you have those people, hold onto them with all you’ve got. Very few businesses are better off as a one-man job.
- Don’t quit your day job
The decision to quit your day job and throw yourself full force into your new business is a huge, landmark decision. Everyone’s story is a very person, very proud moment, and in the end, they should be the only ones making that decision. Some reckless people will encourage you to quit before it’s prudent, while other less bold parties will encourage you to hang out behind the starting line well after the gun has fired. Again, so many factors come into play when making this big decision, and you’re likely the only one who has enough information and perspective to know when the right moment is. Take your time, be sure about your choice, and then don’t let anyone discourage you. Achieving greatness takes a balance of guts and patience.
- Comparing you to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Mark What’s-His-Name
Is there anything worse? We’re not saying you should punch these people, but if you did, we wouldn’t exactly blame you.
- Inspirational buzz words
What is the deal with people who say things like “all you need is passion/drive/determination/faith in yourself” or other similar inspirational platitudes? No, Uncle Jack, actually you need a lot more than passion to make a business successful. But thanks for the pep talk?
- Give up
Any entrepreneur with even a reasonable grasp on the reality of launching a new small business is aware that, especially in the first few years, you are going to experience ups and downs. Some of those downs might be very down. But they don’t necessarily mean it’s time to throw in the towel. In fact, it’s during the tough times that small business owners tend to learn the most about how their company functions, and how it doesn’t. As long as you’re surviving, learning, evolving your company as a result of your setbacks, and moving towards a brighter future, definitely don’t let the naysayers convince you to turn your back on the whole venture. So many incredible business owners failed a little before they succeeded a lot. That’s just how it works.
- Any claims about “the most important thing”
The most important thing is really 5 things. Actually, ten. But really, it’s how all the things work together in support of each other for the purpose of making the whole thing work. Anyone who tells you that the key to success when starting a small business is X is either trying to sell you something, or is simply giving tragically poor advice.