Good Business Advice: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Getting business advice can be hard.  You need to learn a lot, and by now you probably realize you need help. But who do you ask?  How do you determine what advice to follow and what to ignore?

Advice comes in three main groups:  Good, Bad, Ugly

Let’s look at some characteristics of each, starting with The Ugly

Ugly Advice:

This can come in a few forms.  

Ugly #1:  Advice from those who don’t want you to succeed.  
This may seem odd but often there are people who don’t want us to do well for one reason or another.  Maybe it is a friend who thinks your success will make you “better” than them. Maybe it is from a competitor who feels threatened. 

The advice might sound something like this:

“Why bother with starting a business, it just seems like too much work.”

“The market is already saturated, there is no point.”

“Save your money!  Business is hard.”  

Ugly #2:  Advice from people looking to make a buck.
If someone is trying to sell you any course that promises 30 days to any kind of profit, it is probably not worth the money.  If they are making so much money, why are they selling Get Rich Quick courses? There are some of these courses that I think can be good but most of them aren’t related to fast and big profits.  I have bought plenty of courses (like How to Podcast) but there was no promise of great riches. Avoid those desperate promises.

Ugly #3:  Advice from the inexperienced. 

Let’s face it: If you have never run a business you don’t know how to. Period. Only take advice from people that have run small businesses. It is a very special skill set and a unique experience.  Trust me, plenty of people think they know all the ways to run a great business, even though they’ve never done it. Avoid this advice.

Bad Advice:

In reference to Ugly #3, just because has run a business, does not mean their advice is good.  Bad advice can be hard to sort. Avoiding bad advice can often be done by making sure your “Why” is solid.  If you have a clear vision for business, it is easier to know what advice to take and what not to take.  

Bad Advice #1:

Imagine that you run a health food store.  If someone tells you that a great display would be a bunch of candy, you would disagree because it doesn’t fit your business model.  It is not necessarily bad advice but it is not a good fit for you. Some advice might actually be good for another business but bad for yours.  

Bad Advice #2:

Sometimes people will tell you to do as many things as possible.  If you are selling one thing, why not sell ten? Almost always, being a generalist is bad advice. Niching is a proven method for maximum success. When people tell you to Do More, make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin.  Pick your niche and keep focused.

Bad Advice #3

DIY advice.  So much of small business starts out as a do it yourself thing.  But avoid advice that tells you to always save your money and do everything yourself.  Maybe when you are first starting and really bootstrapping your business, that is necessary.  However, continuing to manage the whole business yourself is a recipe for burnout and mistakes.  Get help sooner than later.

And finally, Good Advice:

This one is more about the person giving it than the actual advice. 

Check these things when you’re looking for advice: 

  • Is the person experienced in what you are doing (experience doesn’t mean success- great advice from people telling you the mistakes they made)

  • Are they truly interested in your success and will avoid steering you the wrong way?

  • Do they tell you the pros and cons of their advice (bonus tip: all advice has pros and cons, look for them)

  • Have they used this advice themselves and are they willing to tell you how it worked out.

Although this insight won’t save you from all bad advice, this quick guide will definitely reduce the chances of being led astray!

Next time you’re looking for advice, sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly by asking yourself:

  1. Has this person actually done what I’m looking for advice on?

  2. Is there any reason this person might be motivated to give me poor advice? (Are they trying to make a quick buck?)

  3. WHY do I want this advice? (Is this person’s advice aligned with my vision for my business?)