Sometimes you may not want to share that you’re an entrepreneur. And it’s not because you want to hide what you do, but because you’re trying to avoid all the helpful advice people feel compelled to offer once they know you run a business. The advice might be well intended, but rarely is it actually advice that you sought or needed.
As an entrepreneur and business owner for over 20 years, I’ve experienced just that. While all the advice and words of wisdom were offered with good intentions, it hasn’t always been advice I’ve wanted to follow.
Advice is born of experience, but no two experiences are the same. Knowing this, I’ve learned it’s best to take any counsel with a grain of salt and no single plan is going to work perfectly. Owning a business means frequently thinking in the moment and modifying plans as things change. All the advice in the world isn’t going to prepare you for every situation, but knowing what to listen to and what to disregard can help you navigate new situations.
I don’t have a secret for distinguishing what advice is good or bad, but I can definitely pinpoint some of the worst advice I have received in my career.
“It’s better to use data than to rely on your intuition.”
About 10 years ago, when I was building my company, a business associate recommended that I hire product managers. He said these product management teams would gather customer feedback, and then use that information to make decisions and build a road map. His suggested strategy was allowing product managers to take the lead in scaling innovation, rather than me leading this process.
Going to product teams with massive amounts of customer data and asking them to uncover the next innovation is a waste of time. While there are good product managers, no product manager knows better than the business owner how to come up with solutions for customer problems. And not getting direct customer feedback is a mistake.
Innovation comes from an entrepreneur knowing what his or her company needs to do to compete effectively. Product managers are useful, but at the end of the day it is the business owner who knows customers best, and has to think about and uncover what they really want and what they may not even know they need. Relying on others to tell you what to do can lead to coming up with solutions for problems that your customers aren’t asking you to solve, which is a huge waste of time and resources.
When it comes assessing customer wants and needs, I know I can trust my gut and my instincts because they have been instrumental in the ongoing success of my business. Don’t waste time looking to analytics and data for the answers your instincts have already provided. Relying on the opinions of others is what kills successful innovation.
“At the first sign of a financial crisis, it’s best to lower your head count.”
When we started our company, we knew we had found a hot market, and we were growing incredibly fast. However, only a few years into our business’s North American growth, the 2008 financial crisis hit. At the time, I was hiring hundreds of people, using money from the sale of a previous company.