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The 7 Most Annoying Pieces of Startup Advice

You know how it goes with startup advice … you only like it if it agrees with what you wanted to do in the first place. The truth is, most people who ask for advice have already resolved the issue as it pleased them. That’s why we hate it so much when someone utters that if I were you … You are not me! Walk a mile in my shoes – how’s that for a cliché?

Still, most people, when only at the beginning of their careers, tend to act like a sponge – soaking up every single piece of startup advice that comes their way. It can be a good thing, keeping your mind open for embracing new perspectives and different experiences, but over the years, I’ve come across many annoying (to put it lightly) startup advice that for many proved to be fairly ineffective.

#1. Follow your passion

When you’re passionate about something, you are naturally motivated to work hard to achieve the goals you’ve set. So what’s the underlying issue behind this advice? You can’t really start with passion and hope to make it into a profitable career. The idea has to be something valuable to people; has to have its target audience, and has to either fill the market gap, or be better than the similar product or service that is already out there.

#2. Trust your gut

Now this is by far the worst advice a young startuper can receive. Let me tell you something – instinct is entirely overrated. This, of course, doesn’t mean you should disregard it completely, but it cannot be your guiding star at the beginning of the career, when your entrepreneurial experience is limited – for the first couple of years, it’s better to trust the data than your inner monologue.

#3. Hire A-players

Well it’s not like they are lining up outside your startup door, begging to work for you. No, we don’t live in a world where A-players are en masse. Anyhow, this age-old piece of advice is kind of redundant, since it is logical – the better the people you’re surrounded with, the greater the chances of success are. It is evident that we would all love to have the chance to work with a bunch of brainiacs, however, attracting top talent is easier said than done. What you need is an ideal combination of money, idea and team.

In reality, it’s highly likely you’ll have to “settle” for a B or C-player, but investing your time and resources into these passionate “mid-rangers” might eventually transform them into X-players. Wondering where to find these ambitious and hard-working people? Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re limited to your location only – partnering up with a reliable internet provider near you can take you a long way – to the other side of the globe, to be exact; with the rising trend of remote work, you are bound to track down people willing to fully devote their attention to your startup, although they are not physically working on your company premises.  

#4. Embrace failure

No, I shall not. Statistics say that 1 in 10 startups fail, so obviously, when starting a venture of your own, you should be aware of that fact, but that doesn’t mean you’re not hoping to be the next Bill Gates from the first try.

We are startupers – we are young, optimistic and full of hopes and dreams; no matter how hard we try, we are never fully prepared for failure. Yes, if you never fall, you never learn how to get up, I’m not negating that, but I’m living by the words of Jason Fried, who pointed out in his book that it is success that gives you real ammunition; when you succeed, you know that if you could do it once – you’ll do it next time as well (only better).

Failure is not (and should not be) a prerequisite to success. According to a Harvard Business School study, entrepreneurs who are already successful are more likely to succeed again. Taking all of this into consideration, better piece of advice would be learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid them at all costs.

#5. You have to work long hours if you plan on being successful

For these people, I have only one question – haven’t you ever heard of that work smart not hard? Working long hours doesn’t necessarily mean you will get more work done and will certainly not make you more efficient; if anything, it will make you tired, moody and less productive. What you should do is strive towards resourcefulness – such people are especially good at organizing their time and are able to get twice more work done than those who can be characterized as disorganized.

Fine, pulling an all-nighter on particular occasions will be required, but don’t let it turn into a regular thing. All work no will make you a dull boy.   

#6. Take advantage of every opportunity

Absolutely not – you have to learn to say no from time to time. Taking on every client that comes your way, giving every interesting idea a shot or exploring every new avenue for production will be tempting, but you would be biting off more than you can chew. You should be open to new opportunities, but you don’t want to end up exhausted because you’ve taken more than you can actually handle.

#7. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks

This one kind of logically follows the previous advice, and I have to say that it is incomplete – part of entrepreneurship is about taking smart risks. For a startup to achieve a stellar success, you have to take smaller risks, and they have to be well-calculated. This way, even if a decision turns out to be the wrong one, you will not suffer greater consequences.  

The bottom line

Many receive advice, but only the wise manage to gain profit from it; because not everyone can decide which ones to follow. Thus, if you can tell the difference between good and bad advice, then you don’t really need one.  Startup advice may spur creativity, but what worked well for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you as well.

The above-listed are my top 7 never-want-to-hear-again sentences – do you have any you want to add?


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Nate M. Vickery is a business and marketing consultant from Sydney, Australia. In his spare time he enjoys sharing some of his insights and experience by blogging.

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