Whats the worst business advice you have received?

When you’re a small business owner, you get used to people giving you advice. Sometimes you seek out their insights while other times they share whether you want them to or not. While the advice is almost always well-intended, it’s not always good. In fact, sometimes it’s downright awful.

Whether it’s well-intended or not, bad business advice can cost you a lot of money and even lead to complete failure. Today, in the era of self-proclaimed business experts, mentors, coaches, and so on, every bit of advice should be taken with a huge dose of precaution.  You never know what will work and what won’t, so who’s advice should you take?

Here are some tips that well-meaning people give to small business owners that definitely should not be followed.

1. Never turn down a paying customer

Money is a good thing. But that doesn’t mean you should say yes to everyone who comes through your door. Not every person who approaches you is good for your business. If your gut tells you something is off—maybe the person is very demanding or constantly questions your prices—it’s in your best interests to say no.

It’s not necessarily about the client, either. You might be very busy, and taking on another project means you’ll be giving them subpar service or using up your valuable personal time.

If possible, turn them away graciously by explaining that you’re very busy and cannot give them the attention they deserve. Consider recommending another business for them that they could turn to.

Don’t say “yes” to everyone who walks through the door just because they’re a paying customer.

2. The customer is always right

It’s often in your best interests to ensure an unhappy customer is addressed and their needs are met. But there are clients out there who will never be happy, no matter what you do. It’s okay to try to make things right with them, but you also run the risk of word getting out that you’ll bend over backwards to make customers happy. That just encourages more unhappy people to come your way. Or it encourages people to find reasons to be unhappy so they can get additional benefits from you.

If it’s a normal part of routine that customers are constantly complaining and getting some sort of reward, you need to examine your business. If the customers are truly right, then it’s time for some changes. If they aren’t right, stop treating them like they are.

3. Do what you love

In an ideal world, we’d all have jobs we love and make endless money with no added stress, all without giving up any of our personal time. That’s not how the world works. Just because you love something doesn’t mean there is a market out there for it.

It is however important that you find something you are passionate about that also fills a need in the market — don’t take on something you despise as you wont last long.

4. You don’t have to tax in the first year of business.

They couldn’t be more wrong, right?  Well, while is this technically true, the meaning given to it –  that you actually don’t have to pay any tax on any income when you are in your first year of business – is incorrect.  The income earnt in the first year is taxable income, and you pay tax on it in year 2.

5. You don’t have to pay tax until you earn over $5,000…

This has to be the biggest myth of all when it comes to starting up a business.  If you are selling to make money, then you are in business you have to pay tax on every dollar of profit you make.

A hobby is generally something you do in your spare time for pleasure or recreation.  A business is something commercial, where you aim to make a profit.

6. Just keep trying

Some advice I have heard is ‘just keep trying’. Yes, you have to be persistent, but not everything you try is going to work, even if you keep working at it. You need to recognize when something isn’t working and have the bravery to step back, pivot, and throw your everything into that.

7. Just hurry up and hire them

Hire slow and fire fast!

The wrong person, in the wrong role, at the wrong time can have a massive lasting ripple effect in a business. That ripple can have far-reaching consequences across your business for sometimes years to come. The problems faced include: cleaning up their mess after they have left or you have got rid of them; spending extra time in managing them or micro-managing; trying to make them ‘fit’ the role or hoping they’ll change; disruption of company culture (this is a biggie with long lasting effects); lowering of standards, and much more.

What you want to do is to take on outsourcing or hiring the very best talent matching their skills and attitude to the role or project you want them to work on. And take your time doing it.  Don’t wait to you are so snowed under that you have to rush the process, as that is where hiring fast ends up happening and you then pay the consequences.

8. Do It All on Your Own

Do everything on your own!  A business owner has 10 hats to wear in business, and trying to do everything yourself could be a receipe for burnout.  You cannot micromanage every aspect of your business. It’s likely you don’t have all the skills to manage every single business operation, and when you try to do everything on your own, you’re likely to make serious mistakes. Hire people, outsource to experts in the field, delegate tasks and focus on what you’re good at.

Final thoughts

Everyone has advice about running a small business, even when they have never run one of their own. Some of the advice is helpful but much of it is harmful. Listening to that advice can lead a small business owner down the wrong path.

When someone offers you advice on your small business, ask what credibility they have to share their insights. Have they owned their own business? Do they have knowledge of the industry you work in? Have they learned lessons you could learn from? Was their business similar to yours?

Remember, just because someone is offering advice doesn’t necessarily mean their advice is relevant to you. And just because they offer the advice—or just because the advice is a common saying—doesn’t mean you its right, or that you have to follow it.

Got a question about business that you would like to discuss?


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