The Worst Advice I Got About Starting My Own Business

Are you thinking of launching your own business? Be prepared for a lot of unsolicited advice. Mention that you’re striking out on your own, and everyone — from your brother-in-law to the person sitting next to you on the plane — has some kind of input or anecdote on how to run your business better.

While you can certainly gain valuable insight from listening to others, it’s important to take most words of wisdom with a grain of salt. What may have worked for someone else’s business may not necessarily apply to your situation. On top of that, some advice is just downright bad.

Here are the six worst pieces of advice that I have heard over the course of my entrepreneurial career:

1. Quit Your Day Job / Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Deciding to dive headfirst into a new venture is a huge decision. Some people will encourage you to quit your day job right away, explaining that you won’t succeed unless you commit yourself fully. Others will caution you that 90 percent of startups fail, so you had better keep it a side project until it’s profitable.

Be wary of either of these bits of advice, because in reality there’s no single right decision. So many factors come into play when deciding when to commit to a new business full time, and you and your family are the only ones who have the complete information and perspective to know when the moment is right. Succeeding in business takes a delicate balance of guts and patience, so don’t let anyone else set the pace for you.

2. Don’t Bother: The Market Is Too Crowded

Here’s a true story: When my husband and I launched a legal document filing company the second time around, the market was already quite crowded and there were several large and established players. I can’t tell you how many people told us to look for something new, since there wasn’t any room for us to compete in the market.

Being “disruptive” is a popular buzzword these days, and it’s wonderful if you can define a completely new product category. But business success doesn’t always hinge on finding a completely empty field. Rather than struggling to come up with a brand new idea, take a look at your target industry and see what’s missing from the current offerings. Then, figure out the best possible way to fill that void. Don’t worry about blazing a new trail; just worry about what new thing you are offering to the market and your customers.


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3. If You Want It Done Right, Be Prepared to Do It Yourself

Money might be tight when you are just starting out, but chances are, your most valuable commodity is time. You need time to act, execute, and map out where you’re headed. One of the best ways to get time on your side is learning to delegate.

At the beginning, this can mean one of two things. First, get some help with the busywork like customer mailings. Or, outsource more complex business matters, such as bookkeeping or social media, to an expert so you can stay focused on what you know and do best.

Most entrepreneurs are highly driven and it’s hard for this personality type to give up the reins. But in order to scale, you’re eventually going to need help. The sooner you learn this lesson, the better.

4. Be Everywhere

Granted, no one is actually going to tell you to “be everywhere,” but countless people are going to give you advice about advertising on Google, using Pinterest for your business, attending this networking event, getting on Instagram, Foursquare, Twitter, etc.

Trying to be everywhere is a waste of time, as is choosing a social network just because it worked so well for someone else’s business. You need to be wherever your customers are. You can try out as many different social networks or real-world events as you’d like, but only stay in those places that are driving customers, leads, and sales.

5. You’ve Got to Be Cheaper Than Everyone Else

I’ve definitely fallen into this pricing trap a few times. As a smaller company, it’s only natural to think that your only way to compete is undercutting everyone on price. But drop your prices too low, and you’ll be losing money with every new order and running yourself ragged just to break even.

In the long run, it’s better to focus on how to bring more value to customers, rather than just how you can offer the lowest price possible. At the end of the day, someone will always be willing to absorb a lower price point than you. Therefore, you need to find your own way to stand out and make customers happy at sustainable prices.

6. Follow Your Passion

You have probably heard the saying “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Yes, passion is important, but creating a profitable business isn’t just about you. It’s about your customers. For example, many people love sitting on the beach, but I know very few who have turned that passion into a successful business.

Sometimes, you need to forget about your passion and be passionate about your business instead. Customers spend money on products and services that fulfill their own needs and desires. When you are passionate about creating value for your customers, then you can be truly happy running your business.

Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business advocate and mother of four. As CEO of CorpNet, a legal document filing service, Nellie helps entrepreneurs start a businessincorporate, form an LLC or set up Sole Proprietorships (DBAs) for a new or existing business.