8 Successful entrepreneurs share the worst advice they ever received
If you are an entrepreneur, then you are always going to be given advice on how to run and ramp up your business—whether it’s from friends, family, or your mentors. While a lot of new entrepreneurs will welcome the advice, it’s critical that you are careful about what advice you absorb and what you choose to ignore.
Bad advice is easy to ignore. But sometimes the worst advice can stick with you, as a reminder of what matters most to your personal and professional fulfilment.
Here are the 8 successful entrepreneurs share the worst advice they ever received,
1. Warren Buffett: “Don’t go into the securities business.”
For her book “Tap Dancing to Wok: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2011,” author Carol Loomis asked Buffett, “What was the best advice you ever received?”
Loomis told ABC News, “I was genuinely surprised when all [Buffett] wanted to talk about was the worst advice.”
According to her, Buffett’s father and his mentor, Benjamin Graham, told Buffett when he was 21 that he shouldn’t go into the securities business. Why? Because it was bad timing. Buffett told Loomis, “Maybe their advice was their polite way of saying that before I started selling stocks, I needed to mature a little, or I wasn’t going to be successful.”
But as we’ve seen, the investor ignored that piece of advice and went on to become an extremely successful investor with a net worth of $67.4 billion.
2. Mark Cuban: “Follow your passions.”
In an interview with ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis last year, Mark Cuban answered multiple rapid-fire questions. When asked about the worst piece of advice he ever received, Cuban answered, “Follow your passions. Instead, you should follow your effort.”
Sometimes, it’s hard — or impossible — to find a career that falls in line with your passion. If your passion doesn’t help you earning a living, you should find something you’re good at, work hard at it and embark on that career path.
3. Tim Ferriss: “Not apply to his dream school”
When Ferriss — an accomplished author, investor, and podcast host — was a high school senior, his guidance counselor told him he shouldn’t bother applying to Princeton. The counselor was judged on the acceptance rate of his students, and every denial counted against him.
Fortunately, another member of the faculty, Reverend Richard Greenleaf, told Ferriss he had to apply. Ferriss was accepted and would go onto graduate Princeton in 2000.
Looking back on that, Ferriss told us, he realized two things about advice: 1) Understand other people’s incentives when they give you advice. 2) Consider the downside of taking the advice versus not taking it.
4. Hayley Barna: “Change her company”
“You have to get used to a lot of people giving you a lot of advice when you’re starting a business,” Birchbox cofounder Hayley Barna told Huffington Post Live.
When she and Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp started the company in 2010, they were advised to change their company from a monthly subscription service offering a box of assorted beauty products to a service that sent one item weekly, sans signature box.
Not only would that idea not scale, she explained, but it was one of several examples of an adviser trying to become so involved that the company was no longer their own vision.
5. Samad Nasserian: “Not to think about profitability”
The worst advice Samad Nasserian, Founder and CEO of Cozymeal ever received, as an entrepreneur, was not to think about profitability. He was encouraged to focus instead on the growth of the business and figure out profitability later. It’s common for companies in Silicon Valley only to focus on growth, instead of building a business that is sustainable. However, think of profitability later and it might be too late.
“I never followed this advice because I believe entrepreneurs should focus on sustainable growth and work on the right initiatives rather than efforts that will never lead to profitability,” Nasserian says.
6. Joshua Dziabiak: “It was important to have a detailed and complex business plan”
Joshua is a serial entrepreneur and f ounder of The Zebra.com has received lots of less than stellar advice since he started his first company at age 14. He was once told that it was important to have a detailed and complex business plan before you go to market or looking to raise capital. Not true, in Josh’s case.
“What I’ve learned is that your early plans are often very wrong. It’s more important to understand and establish the fundamentals, like your vision, differentiation, and initial model and capital needs,” says Dziabiak. “A 30-page business plan doesn’t necessarily mean anything more than a two- or three-page business plan. Spend more time on prototyping or case studies than going too far or specific with the written plan itself,” adds Dziabiak.
7. Barbara Corcoran: “You can’t do it alone.”
An insult from a former boyfriend and business partner ended up being Barbara Corcoran’s worst and best piece of business advice. The businesswoman and “Shark” on ABC’s “Shark Tank” told Business Insider, “The best advice was the worst advice. It was from my boyfriend and partner in my first business when he told me I would never succeed without him.”
She added, “But thank God he insulted me because I would not have built a big business without that. It kept me trying everything because I couldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me fail.”
8. Ramit Sethi: “The No. 1 thing you need for a job search is business cards.”
Personal finance advice and entrepreneur, Ramit Sethi, actually has an entire blog post dedicated to some of the worst career advice he’s read — this one takes the cake.
Sethi sarcastically explains that whether you are starting your own business or pursuing employment elsewhere, your network and professional skills are your most valuable tools. Things like business cards really won’t make or break your chance at success.