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Updated: Aug 31, 2017
As an entrepreneur, you’ll receive plenty of advice about how to navigate your business. Some of it will be insightful, some confusing, and some completely worthless. And for every gem or slice of brilliant wisdom you receive, you’ll get 10 times as many tidbits of terrible business advice.
But the worst advice isn’t the kind that makes you roll your eyes or cringe with embarrassment — it’s actually a far sneakier variety. The worst advice is the type that gets perpetuated as fact. It slips past our radar undetected under the guise of practicality, so watch out! Below are four examples of bad business advice.
Society may prize originality and creativity, but the obvious, often ignored truth is this: almost nothing is new. Nearly every smart business model or genius product was heavily influenced by what came before it. The difference between businesses that thrive and those that remain stagnant isn’t dependent on the what, but the how. Good ideas are only as strong as the driving force behind them.
Rather than waste time trying to come up with a revolutionary business model, focus on answering this simple question: What problem am I trying to solve, and for whom? Once you establish your answer, devote less time to breaking the mold and more time to executing your idea well. The rest will take care of itself.
In the early stages of starting a business, you might feel pressured to accept every work opportunity that comes your way. But this strategy, while smart in theory, can actually harm your business long-term. Saying yes to everything isn’t just unsustainable, it’s also a surefire way to distance yourself from your goals. After all, the amount of work you have means little if it doesn’t support your mission or align with your brand.
Be discerning when considering potential clients and projects. Focus on quality and only agree to work that will propel you forward and help you grow.
It’s wise to keep a healthy distance between work and personal affairs, but the old adage that business isn’t personal doesn’t quite ring true. Business is made of people. Companies aren’t just built from teams of incredible people, they’re built on the communities they serve, too. And when you neglect or outright dismiss the feelings and perspectives of the people you do business with, you miss out on opportunities to bridge gaps, overcome misunderstandings, collaborate, and foster success.
That’s why it’s important to treat the people you work with as humans first, and colleagues and customers second. Conduct your business with kindness: Exercise compassion and take time to process upsetting business news so you can react in a productive, healthy manner. Above all, remember to demonstrate care for the people who’ve helped support your business and bring it to where it is today. That practice will take your further than any shrewd business decision could.
Even the most detailed, progressive business plan has one fatal flaw: it can’t account for the myriad challenges and changes you’ll inevitably confront in your work. Business plans aren’t meant to be set in stone — they’re designed to provide a foundation on which to build and grow. Depending on your profit margins and whether or not your customers or clients are happy, you’ll likely have to tweak — or else totally rewrite — your business plan to meet your goals. This is normal.
Redoing your original plan doesn’t mean you failed or lacked persistence; it means you’re able to admit when things don’t work so you can explore better solutions. That willingness to revisit old ideas, reassess, adjust, and let go of your pride is how you’ll ensure your success.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.