Not all business advice should be taken seriously. In fact, most of it is better suited for the trash can. Business leaders need to know the difference between good advice and bad, especially in the early stages of their careers.
We asked top entrepreneurs about the worst business advice they have ever received, and got some key insights that will help you stay on the narrow path to success.
Don’t Bend Beliefs
The purpose of advice is to point you in the right direction at the right time, not to have you compromise your beliefs or change your entire philosophy.
“The worst advice I have received is to not bend on your beliefs and ideas in business,” said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. “Your employees and others in your industry can provide extremely valuable insights into your success. Do not close yourself off to new ideas or prospects because you feel set in your plan.”
Keep those core beliefs strong no matter where you are in life or business.
Good Press > Bad Press
In the internet age, public relations is a rapid-fire game. Your business should get all the good press it can while minimizing the bad, regardless of what they say.
“The worst advice I’ve received is that any publicity is good publicity,” said Bari Medgaus, COO of Stabili-Teeth. “This is absolutely not the case. Anything bad about your company that gets any sort of traction could destroy your company and its reputation. You want to avoid any bad publicity at all costs.”
Controversy should not be your PR strategy in a social media-driven world.
Ready to Pivot
A rock-solid business plan is key to getting a company off the ground, but following the plan too much might limit your flexibility and leave you stuck.
“The worst advice I received is to stick to the plan,” said Aylon Steinhart, CEO and Founder of Eclipse Foods. “You can’t always do that because life changes and trends in business and the markets change. For your business to survive you have to adapt.”
Pivoting is the key business skill of the 21st century, so make it a priority.
The Customer is (Sometimes) Right
Some customers are going to give you a hard time no matter how good your products and services are. Listen to feedback but don’t bend over backwards to the point of snapping.
“The worst advice someone ever gave me is the customer is always right,” said Alex Keyan, CEO and Founder of goPure Beauty. “No, they’re not. While they play a big role in how your company/business can be perceived, that doesn’t mean they’re always right. Working in skincare, just because one customer says one product isn’t good doesn’t mean it isn’t good, it just didn’t work for them. It can work for someone else.”
In today’s expansive global market, those picky customers will find what they need.
Self-Reliance Goes so Far
Some entrepreneurs are seemingly capable of anything, and you might view yourself in the same way. That self-reliance is not always a plus, however, so learn to delegate and work with teams.
“We do not believe that you can only rely on yourself when building a business,” said Abe Rahmanizadeh, COO, Leafwell Botanicals. “Entrepreneurs need not only a team, but a supportive team with whom they can collaborate and bounce off ideas. The more different ideas and perspectives, the more possibilities for growth.”
This might mean setting aside your pride or ego, but the results are worth it.
Cash Isn’t a Cure-All
Know those folks who always seem to throw money at the problem? Those problems never seem to go away. Hard work and creativity are the true sources of wealth when starting a business.
“Some of the worst business advice that comes to mind is that you need a lot of money to make your business successful,” said Jay Shah, CEO and Founder of Auris, Inc. “Obviously, you do need money to start a company, but you don’t need $1 million, and if you’re waiting on a huge amount of money to get started, you may just never get off the ground.”
The answer is to pursue your dreams relentlessly, regardless of where your bank account is at.
Limitations of Feedback
Many of us are inclined to seek feedback and make changes every time some criticism comes across the table. That’s a good habit to have, but don’t take it too far.
“When it comes down to it, the customer isn’t always right simply because they don’t always understand the lengths that you’re able to go to make them happy,” said Sean O’Brien, CMO of Modloft. “Many times policies are put into place that customers aren’t even aware of that are meant to assist them and enhance the customer experience.”
Know when to implement changes for the better and when to push ahead regardless.
Lean on Your Team
Your team is hand-picked for performance and productivity. Be the type of business leader who trusts the people around you and doesn’t try to handle everything on your own.
“’If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,’” said Artie Baxter, CEO of Paperclip. “This isn’t true at all. In fact, this can actually do more harm than good. Oftentimes, business owners try to do everything on their own because they can’t seem to trust others to help. But the truth is, there’s a lot of other people who are more qualified in other skills you might lack.”
Striking the balance of independence and teamwork is tricky, but it’s an essential skill you’ll need to learn sooner than later.
We’ve all been told to stay in our lane at some point in life. While this advice might have good intentions, it can sometimes limit us from achieving our full potential.
“Stick to what you know,’” said Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper and Scott. “I always recommend trying new things. I know sometimes change can be a scary idea. But being open to trying new things allows you to become more adaptable.”
These days, you want to expand your comfort zone as much as possible and become a truly well-rounded businessperson.
Have a great product that you’re proud to put in the public eye? Product quality is key, but it’s only part of the equation in entrepreneurship, especially in a saturated online world.
“The worst business advice I can think of is that you will attract customers once you create a good product,” said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent-a-Wheel. “This is not entirely true because of course, you have to take the initiative to market your product and to create a smart business strategy. We are successful not only because of our products, but how we sell them and how flexible we are willing to be with our customers.”
Marketing isn’t easy in the current climate, but you’ve got limitless tech and tools to help you out.
A lot of advice just tells you to pursue your passion and everything else will work itself out. That’s not the worst advice in the world, but it doesn’t give you the complete picture.
“’Do what you love and the money will come,’” said Mary Berry, Founder and CEO of Cosmos Vita. “Even for someone who is passionate about health and wellness, this is not to say that I am not concerned about the financials of operating a business and about the ROI of what I do. Ultimately I need to be sure that my business endeavors are not only based on things I care about and that will help people, but that they are lucratively beneficial. If the business can’t make money, then I cannot fulfill on helping others through my passions.”
Grinding through projects and crunching numbers is inevitable, so embrace the process.
Beyond Your Limits
Have you ever been warned about being a jack of all trades? The term comes with a stigma and suggests that when you fail to specialize, you aren’t positioned for success.
“I was often told that specialization is the key to success, but I realized early on that this isn’t quite true, especially in entrepreneurship,” said Eric Wu, COO and Co-Founder of Gainful. “Top performers in business know a bit about everything and are highly versatile. Build skills across the board and be ready for anything.”
In the modern business world, it’s all about versatility, so build up those skills across the board.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Looking for advice that will help you out of a jam or give you the exact answer to your problems? Most generic advice is not going to be of use.
“Advice is highly personalized, and there is no cookie-cutter philosophy that everyone can follow all the time,” said Travis Killian, CEO and Founder of Everlasting Comfort. “That’s the weird paradox about business advice, and why you should always take it with a grain of salt.”
The best advice is often from mentors or people who know you personally, so seek out insights from those you trust most.
How many times have you been given advice from someone who refuses to see the situation any other way? Be wary of these individuals and always remember to think for yourself.
“The more adamant somebody is about giving you advice, the more likely it’s not going to help you in any concrete way,” said Dr. Paris Sabo, COO and Co-Founder of Dr. Brite. “That’s just something I’ve noticed about managers and mentors over the years. The best ones let you choose your own path and trust your abilities.”
Nobody truly knows the situation like you, so make decisions based on instinct above all.
It’s not a question of whether or not you’ll get some bad advice in your life – that’s going to happen sooner or later. The real test is dismissing the advice that doesn’t serve you, and not thinking twice about it.
“Bad advice is a dime a dozen, and you need to learn to brush it off without a second thought,” said Chris Gadek, Head of Growth at AdQuick. “Make decisions based on your own experience and understanding, and don’t let others try to dictate your reality.”
No need to be rude, just be honest and keep pushing forward with your plans.
Objective thinking is the true superpower in the world of business. No matter what advice your receive, always weigh both sides and consider all of your options.
“There are no bad business and investment opportunities, but there are bad entrepreneurs and investors,” said Robert Kiyosaki, Renowned Speaker, Author, and Investor. “To be a successful business owner and investor, you have to be emotionally neutral to winning and losing. Winning and losing are just part of the game.”
As your confidence builds and you gain more experience, this becomes easier with time.
Not sure who to believe when you’re getting advice from every angle? It’s usually best to trust the person with a track record of success, and someone you admire.
“Watch out for anyone who gives advice without the real-world results to back it up,” Dr. Robert Applebaum of Applebaum MD. “These are the people who aren’t satisfied with their own careers and don’t have much to offer. Following your gut is often the best way forward.”
The advice won’t always be perfect, but at least you know it’s coming from a good source.
You Don’t Know Me
It’s so easy to give advice to someone when you have a cursory understanding of their situation and the challenges they face. Keep this in mind when receiving advice from others.
“It’s rare that you’ll get good advice in the business world, since nobody knows exactly who you are or what you’re capable of,” said Guna Kakulapati, Co-Founder and CEO of CureSkin. “You need to trust yourself more than anyone else, because you’re the best teammate you have.”
Whether it’s good or bad advice, you’re the one making the call at the end of the day.
A lot of business advice is highly technical and doesn’t take into account the human element of business. Even in the internet era, you’ve got to keep compassion in the picture.
“I’ve heard many times that business is cutthroat and cold-hearted, but my experience has been the exact opposite of that,” said Daniel Snow, CEO and Co-Founder of The Snow Agency. “All of my victories have come from being selfless, conscientious, and focused on building real connections.”
There will be times to make cold and calculating decisions, but that’s not always the case.
Listen to the Best
Let’s be honest – most people aren’t entrepreneurs, and many who set out on this path never achieve their idea of success. Keep that in mind when receiving and applying advice.
“When you consider that 99% of all businesses fail, it’s really no wonder why so much business advice is bad,” Jordan Smyth, CEO and Founder of Gleamin. “Find the people who have actually made it to the top, and listen to what they have to say instead.”
Just one piece of good advice from a successful person is far more valuable than an entire book written by someone who is not.
Don’t Burn Out
What good is your talent and discipline if you burn out from overworking? Anyone who tells you to work until you drop is probably not giving you the right advice.
“We’re often told that endless hours and sleepless nights are the only routes to success,” said Mike Pasley, Founder of Famous IRL. “Maybe that’s true for a small handful of mega-billionaires out there, but to just get a viable business off the ground, you don’t need to burn yourself out.”
Work hard and stay focused, but avoid burnout at all costs.
Long Term Effort
We hear nothing but stories about how the latest and greatest business leaders achieved overnight success with their companies, but always take these tales with a grain of salt.
“I think the myth of ‘overnight success’ is a dangerous one because it makes people think that success just happens magically, out of thin air,” said Kelli Lane, CMO of Genexa. “In truth, these things take time and you need to be focused on a single goal for many years to make it happen.”
Slow and steady wins the race, as they say, and that’s going to be the case 99% of the time.
Perfection Doesn’t Exist
The chase for perfection never ends well, and that’s because perfection doesn’t exist. That goes for your own efforts and the ways that you engage with others.
“I’m not a fan of the business culture that tells everyone to be perfect, professional team members all the time, no matter what,” said Ben Teicher, President of Healthy Directions. “Real progress in business comes from disagreements and finding solutions. That’s how the world works, and it’s not a fairy tale.”
Don’t be an arrogant business leader who nobody wants to work with, but also don’t hide your opinions or your true personality.
Let Go of the Past
Mistakes happen, and in the business world, they’re going to happen a lot. Live with them and learn from them so that they’re kept to a minimum in the future.
“I got screwed over in some bad business deals, but as long as I focused on those past problems, I couldn’t move forward,” said Personal Development Coach Steve Pavlina. “I had to let all of that go and forgive everyone and everything first. “
The longer you hold on to problems, the more they’ll appear on the road ahead.
No Such Thing as Solo
Can you start a business on your own and achieve a level of success? With today’s technology and connectivity, it’s possible, but it’s not optimal.
“The word ‘solopreneur’ needs to be scrapped from our collective vocabulary, in my opinion,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “Nobody is an island, and nobody can make it in business alone, even if they’re the most talented person on earth. You need people by your side to make big things happen.”
Just remember that the best companies expand far beyond the individual, and you can’t be an island forever.
The Safe Bet
If someone tells you to leave your dreams behind and stick with the status quo, they’re probably not on your side. Never let doubt enter your mind if entrepreneurship is your goal.
“By far the worst business advice is telling someone they should abandon their dream and just stick with something safe and predictable,” said Ashley Troutman, Senior Director of Brand Management at Mother Dirt. “That helps nobody, and it’s often just a way to hold people back from their true potential.”
Risk is just a part of life no matter what you do, so why not go for gold?
Always an Opportunity
There’s a lot of talk about saturation these days, and this can be discouraging to some. Rather than looking at a market and thinking it’s too crowded, see it as a reminder that many people have succeeded in this arena already.
“I never like hearing that a market is ‘saturated’ or too crowded for new ideas,” said Tyler Forte, Founder and CEO of Felix Homes. “That’s not a winning mindset, and if you think that way, you’ve already sabotaged yourself!”
No Room for Doubt
If you haven’t got the memo yet, the old-school gatekeepers of business no longer hold the power they once did. It’s all about what you set your mind to and the effort you put in.
“Any advice that tells you to follow a predetermined path or achieve a certain status before starting a business – that’s not advice worth taking,” said Omid Semino, CEO of Diamond Mansion. “In this day and age, the real factor for success is abandoning all doubt and pursuing your goals relentlessly.”
Not sure if you can make it in the business world? The only way to find out is to try.
Good Intentions, Bad Advice
Family members and friends can sometimes give you bad advice to protect you from risk or keep you within a certain “box” that they imagine in their minds. They don’t see it as a bad thing, however, so try to see it from their perspective.
“Everyone has been told that they aren’t smart enough, educated enough, and all other sorts of nonsense like that,” said Dr. Blake Livingood, Founder of Livingood Daily. “The worst part is that this ‘advice’ is often given by the people who love us most. Be able to see through that stuff and stay on your path.”
Your loved ones want the best for you, but only you can make the decisions necessary to go above and beyond.
No Harm Done
They say not to meet your idols, and there’s definitely some truth to that statement. Take their advice cautiously, because it’s not guaranteed to be right.
“Bad advice can come from people who you admire, or people you look up to,” said Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science. “It’s important to separate the advice from the person and remember that they don’t intend to lead you astray. They’re often just looking for a way to be useful and give you their two cents.”
Get ready to be hit with some bad advice on your journey to business success, because you’ll hear a lot of it. Just keep these tips in mind and remember to go with your gut when all else fails.