The (Unexpected) Worst Advice I’ve Received As An Entrepreneur
Why ‘find a co-founder’, ‘you need investors to go big’, ‘tell everyone you know about your business’ is some of the worst advice to receive as an entrepreneur.
There’s no bigger receiver of unsolicited advice than a new entrepreneur. For some reason, when you tell someone that you’re starting a business, it’s their cue to coach you on topics they have no business coaching you on.
My favorite nugget of wisdom — get a celebrity spokesperson, that’ll really change your business. Cool. Ping me when you make that Ryan Reynolds connection happen.
The barrage of unhelpful advice is abundant — when you’re first starting out, you don’t know which advice is going to bomb and usually find out via trial and error.
I’ve taken my fair share of unhelpful advice as a result, and from the stories my clients share with me, it’s clear others have experienced the same. Here’s some of the unexpected unhelpful advice we’ve received as new entrepreneurs and what we learned about why it didn’t serve us.
You definitely need to find a co-founder
There’s this unspoken belief that having a co-founder for your business will make your business more desirable to invest in, or that it’ll make it easier to build the business. Both aren’t necessarily true, and the validity of these beliefs all hinge on how compatible a potential co-founder is.
If you find a compatible co-founder who has a desirable skill set, is willing to work with you through conflicts in a healthy manner, and aligns with you on work ethic and vision, then yes, this type of co-founder will be a game changer.
If a potential co-founder lacks even one of these qualities, they will likely create unnecessary conflicts without even trying to, pulling your focus away from your work.
Finding a compatible co-founder is as difficult as finding your soulmate. Success mostly comes from getting out there, dating around, and an unshakeable resolve to not settle.
Don’t assign to the belief that you need a co-founder for your business to succeed. If your co-founder isn’t soulmate level, they’re likely going to do you worse than good anyway.
Make massive investments in yourself early on
Have you come across business coaches, conferences, or startup programs that promise you success of your wildest dreams in exchange for a hefty investment or equity?
Yes, a business coach is a wonderful investment when starting up, but working with one who charges $20K to kick off probably isn’t the right coach for you yet. Yes, joining a startup accelerator in exchange for equity would be a game changer, but not if you’re still wavering between two possible business ideas.
There is such a thing as making a massive investment too soon when you don’t have the tools yet to do anything useful with the guidance you receive.
Investments are only opportunities for growth if you get the timing right.
You can definitely accelerate your growth with smart investments, but you can’t buy your way into skipping the line to go from newbie to Bezos overnight. You have to do the work — anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you snake oil.
You need an investor to go big
Bootstrapped businesses aren’t applauded as much as businesses that are backed by investors. There’s announcement press when someone raises a significant investment round for their business, but not as much applause when a business completely bootstraps themselves to a huge sales milestone without investment.
We live in a startup culture that loves investment gossip and puts funded startups on a pedestal — so it’s no surprise that there’s a commonly held belief that the funded startups are the ones that are more revered and successful.
If we are measuring success according to profitability, then it’s definitely not true that investment-backed startups hold that crown. Investment-backed businesses like Uber, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Slack are still not profitable, but many view these businesses as wild successes even though their numbers are in the red.
Money speeds up timelines, but it doesn’t necessarily lay the groundwork for success. It also doesn’t guarantee a profitable business.
An investment-backed business may score brownie points in the startup popularity contest, but it’s not necessarily a recipe for a smart business.
Tell everyone you know about your new business
Have you ever gotten blitz marketed by a friend’s new business online? They invite you to like their business’ new Facebook page, invite you to all of their events, tag you on an Instagram post, and more to spread the word about their new business. This happens often because it’s advice that’s commonly dished out to the new entrepreneur — tell EVERYONE you know about what you’ve created.
I don’t find blitz marketing to your friends and family (F&F) to be a meaningful way of advertising your business.
Especially if you’ve done your homework, you’d see that it’s a low ROI activity to advertise your business to a group of people who aren’t totally into what you’re doing.
It’s a more strategic use of time to focus on the communities that are swarming with your ideal customers and committing your blood, sweat, and tears to getting them to bond with you. That’s a time investment that’ll pay dividends later on.
I’ve seen many founders play too long in the F&F pool and crash into utter sales despair when their engagement tanks due to F&F fatigue.
Invest the time into a formula that’ll attract your true customers that live and breathe your product. Your business is living on borrowed time when it rides on the favors of F&F.
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