Just because a piece of advice is common doesn’t mean it applies to every entrepreneur.
Follow your passion. Always be hustling. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Every new and aspiring entrepreneur has likely heard common pieces of business advice like this repeated over and over again.
The problem is that these types of tips are rarely universal; each business is unique and needs to find its own path to success, regardless of what has worked for other entrepreneurs.
Below, eight entrepreneurs shared some common business principles that they believe are overrated. Here’s why they think you shouldn’t necessarily follow these tips, and what they would advise doing instead.
Believe that the customer is always right.
Customer service is crucial to the success of any business, says Mark Stallings, co-founder of Casely, Inc. But contrary to the popular saying, the customer is not always right.
“When a customer is being unreasonable, it’s crucial for employees to feel supported, empowered and heard,” Stallings says. “Forcing them to appease irrational customers is bad for morale and ultimately bad for business.”
Raise investor capital to get started.
While investor capital can be an important catalyst for startup growth, it’s not an essential piece of the puzzle for every single startup.
“To start most businesses, you don’t need funds or investors,” says Piyush Jain, CEO of Simpalm. “I have lots of clients who want to start a business and they waste a lot of time finding investors because they read about it online. You just need guts to launch a business.”
Create a business plan.
Most entrepreneurs are told they need to create a business plan before they can get off the ground. Having an outline is important, says Rachel Lipson, founder and CEO of Blue Balloon Songwriting for Small People, but unless you’re seeking out investors, having a robust business plan may be unnecessary.
“An extensive document can be an opportunity to organize your new business, but putting that energy and time into creating a website can serve the same purpose — and then you’re much further on your way,” Lipson says.
Hire fast, fire faster.
While this may be a common recruiting strategy for certain companies, the rapid turnover could actually put a strain on your team, says Firas Kittaneh, co-founder and CEO of Amerisleep Mattress.
“Having to train new people constantly is a distraction compared to hiring folks who are more likely to grow, stay and thrive with your business,” explains Kittaneh. “Instead, I recommend hiring slowly and strategically, with a focus toward nurturing long-term talent.”
Never turn down an opportunity.
Wearing all the hats in your startup often creates pressure to “do everything” and “be something” for everyone, says Blair Thomas, co-founder of eMerchantBroker. Unfortunately, taking every opportunity that comes your way often leads to a founder spreading their resources too thin.
“The most successful business leaders are more than comfortable saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with their overall vision,” Thomas says.
Ensure your business is completely unique.
It’s important for any new business owner to know what differentiates their company and helps them stand out in the marketplace. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be 100 percent unique and never done before.
“Every idea has been explored already and none will be completely brand new or unique,” says Stephanie Wells, co-founder and CTO of Formidable Forms. “However, if you can show why your product is essential and how it solves a problem for your audience, it’ll be sure to speak to your audience.”
Always stay ahead of your competition.
Many businesses focus on their competitors and how they can “get ahead” of them. Instead, it’s better to obsess over your customers, explains Cody Candee, CEO of Bounce.
“Focus on your customers and play your own game,” Candee says. “It’s common to get caught up in what your competitors do and how you should respond to it. But the best business stories I’ve heard, from Amazon to Hinge, involve companies doing things differently and being customer-centric.”
Only do what you’re passionate about.
According to Tyler Bray, CEO of TK Trailer Parts, telling people to only do what they are passionate about isn’t always great advice.
“Don’t expect your passion for watching Netflix, for example, to translate into a dream business,” Bray says. “I prefer to tell people to bring their passion to everything they do. You’ll be surprised at how passionate you can become about an idea that is truly starting to work.”