Business Owners Share the Best and Worst Advice They've Received

Alayna Okerlund

Last Updated: March 9th, 2021

Man and woman talkingPart 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

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."

Marcy Phelps, Owner of Marcy Phelps & Associates Inc.

Best Business Advice: "Listen to and focus on the customer. Talk to people in the industry to understand their needs and wants, find ways to fill those needs, and make it easy for clients to work with you. Always keep updating what you know about your customers and others like them."
Worst Business Advice: "As a private investigator, I would never be taken seriously as a woman and should bring in a male partner. Never did that and never had trouble being taken seriously."
Her Advice: "You need to understand what your clients value. Don’t decide what you want to offer without determining if it’s something they value."

Ladan Davia, CEO of Beeya

Best Business Advice: "The best advice I’ve ever received was to say 'yes to everything.' As an entrepreneur, especially one starting at a young age, you have to be everywhere and take advantage of every opportunity given to you. For every 100 meetings, maybe one will go well, but you still have to go to every single one. The one you don’t go to could be the one that changes the course of your business."
Worst Business Advice: "The worst advice I’ve ever received was when I was going to a networking event and someone said 'you’re not here to make friends, you’re here for business.' WRONG. Part of networking and advancing in life is off of relationships. I have gotten more partnerships and accounts by starting off as friends than when I cold call people asking them for favors. When I’m at an event, I always have the mindset of 'I’m going to try and make one new friend today.' Who knows, that friend could be your next business partner (true story)."
Her Advice: "The advice I would give my younger self or a future small business owner is that it gets worse before it gets better. I truly believe the biggest component of being a great entrepreneur is if you can withstand the roller coaster ride that is starting a business. There will be high highs and low lows but as long as you don’t get off, you will make it."

Geoff Gross, Founder and CEO of Medical Guardian

Best Business Advice: "Surround yourself with great people who fit in with you and your business."

Worst Business Advice: "The worst advice I've ever received was to say 'No' to as much as you can. Over the years, I've realized the more I say 'Yes,' the more opportunities and success it leads to!"
His Advice: "Constantly focus on getting better at your job. When you start a business, you are a one-person show. As your business continues to grow, it's important to also evolve within your role or the company can't grow to your standards. Business success takes a vision, desire, guidance, and practice."

Alex Tran, Owner of

Best Business Advice: "Try it all and use what works best for you! Through trial and error, I've found that SEO optimization works best for me. I've created my brand by seeking out people who are looking for what I have to offer."
Worst Business Advice: "Focus on Instagram. It will bring you all the business. I try to avoid sticking to one platform because it severely limits my reach. Also, if it's a platform I do not believe in (IG can be flighty and ROI is difficult), I will not be happy or passionate with using it."
Her Advice: "Not only will you learn what works for you, you'll learn to become your own consultant and boss. It's amazing what the human mind is capable of doing when it has a goal in mind."

Christopher Earley, Owner of the Law Office of Christopher Earley

Best Business Advice: "Always avoid problem clients, no matter how much you are giving up. Problem clients are just never worth it."
Worst Business Advice: "If things don't work out, you can always try something else."
His Advice: "I would advise my younger self/future business owners to lunch more often with possible referral sources."

The Bottom Line

Business owners, especially new business owners, typically have a full plate. They have to figure out their finances, how they will go about getting the right business loan, how to understand their target market, where their physical business location will be, etc. The list seems endless at times. Clearly, getting advice from business owners can be hit or miss, but it's worth a try. Just keep in mind that some advice may be misleading as you seek advice for your new business venture.
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