Written by Alayna Okerlund | Last Updated February 24th, 2020Alayna Okerlund is a finance-focused Senior Content Strategist at BestCompany.com. Over the past three years, Alayna's finance-related research has helped readers feel more financially confident. She has worked with several reputable experts and has provided content for a variety of well-known publications like Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Lifehacker, and more.
Part one of this series
People starting a new business venture are bound to get advice from others, whether they want it or not. Although some advice can be helpful, business owners may also receive advice that could ruin their business plans. How do you know the difference between good and bad business advice? We turned to real business owners and asked them about the best and worst business advice they've ever received as well as the advice they would give to future business owners.
Here's what they said:
Fiona Adler, Founder of Actioned.com
Best Business Advice: "The best advice I've received is to imagine the business 12 months from now. This simple tip really helps me make decisions about hiring people, investing in marketing, automating processes, and generally stepping the business up to the next level. If you just think about the business today, you can probably get by without doing these things, but if you think about how you want the business to be in a year's time, it often becomes clear where you need to make changes."
Worst Business Advice: "The worst advice I've received is that 'the customer is always right.' Not only are there some really crazy customers out there, but even well-intentioned customers can also sidetrack you if they're not the right type of customer for your business. Of course, you always want to provide great customer service, but you don't necessarily need to change your business to suit every customer whim. Having a clear vision for who your ideal customer is and how your business is positioned in the market is essential."
Her Advice: "The advice I give business owners starting out is to think about how they actually want to be spending their time. Of course, there are always things we dislike, but they need to build their business so that they are spending the majority of their time doing things they actually like doing. For instance, someone who likes jewelry might open an online store but then find that the majority of their time is spent packaging and shipping items. You need to think about how you can use your interests and skills in the best way possible."
Jessica Tappana, Owner of Aspire Counseling
Best Business Advice: "The best business advice I ever received was to read Profit First. Reading and implementing Profit First has given me a lot of peace of mind in how we are handling our business finances, confidence that I can afford my own salary, a way to make financial decisions overall, and reduced the amount of time I spend worrying about the finances of my business."
Worst Business Advice: "It was probably all the people who discouraged me from taking the risk of opening my own business. I wish I could have tuned out the naysayers more easily because it would have allowed me more mental space to focus on getting things done. I've found that pessimism isn't very helpful in business. Being realistic, seeing problems for what they are, and having an attitude that problems are meant to be solved is much more helpful than worrying about people who have said, 'that will never work.'"
Her Advice: "Advice I'd give future business owners would be to be confident enough to know your own areas of weakness. By having a clear picture of where you need to grow, you can target those areas for growth. When I finally realized, 'Hey, I can do this business thing,' I was able to stop focusing on every little insecurity and instead acknowledge my biggest weaknesses: technology and finances. I was then able to seek out opportunities to learn more about those weaknesses and improve in those areas. Being able to feel confident overall gave me the freedom to tackle my true weaknesses, and now my business is able to grow, thrive, and help more people than I had initially dared to dream."
Lauren Hawkins, Owner of Flame Point Global Solutions, LLC
Best Business Advice: "Capitalize on my vulnerabilities to show my female side, my human side, my empathy, and demonstrate that I have feelings just like the people I lead. People want to see me as a mentor, a confidante, and a trustworthy leader. Business schools forget to tell you 'be human!' I am a Human Resources Leader and one of the best compliments I ever have received is 'you really put the HUMAN back in Human Resources!'"
Worst Business Advice: "'Get a thicker skin!' This flies in the face of the above. When people have told me this, they have told me to act like a machine, stuff down your feelings, and put on your big boy pants. Expressing feelings opens up communication and builds relationships."
Her Advice: "If you don’t ask, the answer will always be 'NO!'. When people say 'NO' to that meeting, presentation or whatever else you ask for, they are saying 'not now!'. Keep that in mind. Take tiny steps to get out of your comfort zone. If you struggle with confidence in starting your new business, remember you are 100 steps ahead of those who never even tried."