Best Business Advice You’ve Ever Received
Advice is a dime a dozen these days, but when it's coming from successful business leaders, you might want to listen up.
You may be on the path of business ownership yourself, or maybe you're just looking for inspiration. Great advice can set your career on a higher trajectory if it hits the mark for you.
We asked current business leaders about the best advice they've ever received, and now we're passing it along to you.
If you woke up tomorrow and money was no longer an object, what would you do?
After lazing around for a while, you might pursue a hobby or maximize your skills in a particular area - that energy has to go somewhere! When you harness that passion, business becomes so much simpler.
"The best piece of business advice I have ever received is to mold your passion around your work," said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. "Everyone says if you love what you do then you will never work a day in your life, but what they don't tell you is that you can take your passion and test the market. I absolutely love spreading art to others to gain an appreciation and for me to be successful in that field, I need to understand the market. I just can't dream about it - I need to be an expert in the field which I love. I know the innards of the art world and how to market an art company correctly."
Identify what you love and make that the central focus of your business, even if you start on the smallest possible scale.
Don't Forget Family
The cliché of the entrepreneur is the person who ignores friends, family, and even food to pursue their goals. There might be some truth to that, but real business leaders know that balance is vital to maintaining sanity and finding success.
You might just get a family-oriented business idea in the process.
"The business world always seems to be set on innovation, but very rarely do you hear people discuss the importance of family needs and desires," said Melissa South, SVP of SwingTie I was told once that to find success you need to start by finding ways to make family life easier. This can mean so many things. This can mean innovating kitchen equipment to make it easier for families to cook or expanding on outdoor tools to make it easier to take care of your yards. In my case it meant making a simple design to make outdoor time at home more fun for children. The small-scale goal creates large-scale success."
When family is in your corner, you can't fail.
Master a Niche
Think markets are saturated now? People have been saying that for hundreds of years, and it's almost always an excuse to sit back and do nothing. Great ideas will rise to the top and there are more opportunities than you think in the modern world.
Find a niche, focus, and go all-out.
"The best piece of business advice I have received is to gear your business operations around people who tend to be forgotten within your field," said Jeffery Brown, President of Big Fig Mattress. "You absolutely need to find your niche in whatever market you wish to enter. For example, if you want to start a car company, who are you going to target? Will your company really be much different than the thousands of others that have produced? Or will you find a way to target a specific niche of consumers who need products geared toward them. This mindset is exactly the reason why we started Big Fig Mattress."
Zoom in on a particular audience and offer a targeted solution - you'll see opportunity everywhere.
Self-Care is Key
How many times have you seen a passionate professional burn themselves out with bad habits? It's the cause of so much wasted potential in our world - don't let it happen to you.
"Develop good personal habits as early as you possibly can," said Vincent Bradley, CEO & Co-Founder of Proper Wild. "This advice helped me become aware of my potential, evolving into the most productive version of myself as I became more involved in my businesses. These lifestyle changes allow me to bring my A-game to work every day, and I wish I had started them sooner."
You probably know which habits you can eliminate or improve, so start small and make a long-term commitment to your better self.
Speed it Up
Efficiency can't be overlooked when starting a business. There simply isn't all the time in the world to wait. Execute on your goals quickly, even if they aren't perfect. That momentum will build and keep you pushing forward for months and years to come.
"This may sound counterintuitive, but the best advice I've received is to work faster and more efficiently by shortening my daily to-do list," said Ashwinn Krishnaswamy, Co-Founder of Oklahoma Smokes. "If I overfill my to-do list when trying to get more done in my day, there's no room for inevitable human error. When my fifteen-minute meeting takes twenty, there suddenly aren't enough minutes in the day to get everything done. Panic leads to procrastination, and I accomplish less than I would have if I scheduled a lighter load. By keeping my daily tasks manageable, I can set myself up for success."
We aren't saying to be sloppy or sacrifice quality - efficiency is a balancing act we all need to master.
Keep it Lean
Today's startup culture is very focused and requires fewer people than you might think. Many moving parts can be automated or outsourced, and much of the most powerful technology is available right from your laptop.
Ask yourself: how many staff members do you really need to get the job done?
"When first getting started, keep your operations as lean as possible and only bring more people on board when necessary," said John Berry, CEO of Berry Law. "It's tempting to keep building up your roster and inflating the payroll, but that is only going to distract you from the main mission. Hire when you need to, not when you feel like it."
Rather than getting bogged down in hiring sprees or building up massive infrastructures, focus on how you can maximize every single asset you currently have.
Network to Full Effect
There has never been a better time in history to expand your network and make connections throughout the world. This is simply a good habit to practice, so don't get rusty when it comes to making introductions and shaking hands, even virtually.
"Never stop networking, even when you think you've got your dream team in place," said Dan Potter, Co-Founder of Craftd. "You never know if someone might step into your world with new ideas or solutions to problems."
At the end of the day, networking is a universal aspect of business that can't be ignored. No company is an island, so make friends and allies everywhere you go.
Companies that succeed are always introducing new products and compelling customers to explore their latest offerings. They launch different versions of existing products to keep interest high. Keep that inspiration flowing and your business will never stagnate.
"If you aren't sure how to create new products or offers, do some market research and see what people are talking about online," said Katie Lyon, Co-Founder of Allegiance Flag Supply. "You can discover a lot about customer needs and desires from reading social media posts, reviews, and testimonials. Everything is research."
It's in our nature to be attracted to the latest and greatest stuff, even if it isn't groundbreaking. Leverage that natural instinct by keeping your products fresh and refined.
Stoke the Flames
Maybe you've started a few businesses in the past, but never quite had the need to succeed with all your heart and soul. That passion needs to burn bright in order to take things to the next level in business and life.
"You're going to be dedicating a huge amount of energy and time to your business, so make sure it's something you absolutely love and care about," said Jamie Bainbridge, VP of Product Development at Mylo Unleather. "Many people fold because that passion just isn't there in the first place."
If you need to trick yourself into caring or working hard, that's a sign to reconsider your plan.
Have you noticed how open and vocal people are with their opinions online lately? That's the understatement of the century, but it's also a powerful piece of business advice.
"Become highly attuned to how people think about problems and address them in their daily lives," said Abraham Rahmanizadeh, COO of Leafwell Botanicals. "What obstacles do they face, and is there an easier, simpler face to overcome those obstacles? That will inspire so many products and services for your company."
When someone complains, don't just write them off. There might be a business idea embedded in their complaint.
Hold Up a Mirror
Business ownership requires strong self-belief and maybe even a hint of arrogance. That's healthy, but it can turn toxic if you fail to realize your own faults and notice problems with employees, clients, or partners.
"Your people are a direct reflection of your own performance as a leader and manager," said Matt Seaburn, Partner and President of Rent A Wheel. "If they're unsatisfied or disengaged from the company mission, that's on you. Examine your leadership style and reinvent your approach when needed, rather than ignoring issues."
Sometimes we all need to look in the mirror to get to the root of problems in business and beyond.
Just Make a Move
What do all great business leaders throughout history have in common? They weren't all geniuses, and they weren't all perfect - by any means. The common thread is that they took action no matter what, and it paid off for them in huge ways.
"The worst decision you can make is no decision at all," said Brittany Dolin, Co-Founder of PocketBook Agency. "There are risks and rewards to every decision, so embrace that reality and never sit on the fence. Action is everything."
If you're the indecisive type, focus on improving your decision-making skills first and foremost.
Get Amped Up
How many businesses were started on a beach or in a hammock? We might feel happy and relaxed when the pressure is off, but that's not how great companies are formed. Find a source of burning motivation and use it to get an edge.
"Be your own hype man and pump yourself up to accomplish amazing things," said Scott Rosenberg, CRO of MaryRuth Organics. "Energy is so important when starting a business, and you have no time to waste. Work harder and smarter, maximizing your every move with intention and focus."
In other words, be wary of comfort, because it can actually slow your momentum to a stop.
Don't Be a Know-it-All
What's more powerful than someone who thinks they have all the answers? The person who is always asking questions and ready to admit when they're wrong.
"We don't know everything," said Michael Scott Cohen, CEO of Harper and Scott. "Although there are times we might think we're doing a good job, we should always look for ways to continually improve, for both employees and clients."
It's more than humility - it's an eagerness to absorb new information and experiences at all times.
Are you dreaming of being a business owner so you can one day just drop it all and escape? That's a vision that many people have, but it's not the reality. Business is always a work-in-progress, especially for peak performers.
"There's no endpoint when it comes to business ownership, no finish line," said Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer of Genexa. "Be open to the idea of always improving and always looking for ways to expand your brand. Never be satisfied with the status quo, and success is inevitable."
Rather than sprinting to the end of the race, enjoy the journey and create a sustainable way of living. That seems to be the answer.
Live to Learn
Sometimes the best advice is simply to take more advice! There is no limit to human knowledge, and business is one of the all-time greatest teachers.
You'll learn lessons along the way that could never be taught in school, so be ready to take some notes.
"Seek learning opportunities in everything," said Louis Leidenfrost, CEO of Paint Your Numbers. "Never stop learning. The more you learn, the more you grow. Adapting a learning mindset allows you to seek opportunities from anywhere."
Feel like you haven't learned anything in your career lately? Maybe it's time to start your own venture.
Failure = Fuel
Nearly every piece of business advice makes some reference to failure, yet it still makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Redefining our relationships with failure seems to be a hidden key to success that great leaders understand well.
"Allow yourself to fail," said Artie Baxter, CEO of Paperclip. "Failure allows growth. If you don't try, how will you ever know what the outcome could have been? Failure also serves as a motivation. Sometimes lack of success is the boost of motivation needed. This creates a drive and a passion for success."
Stop thinking that failure is inherently bad, and embrace it as part of the process.
Lots of business advice is focused on management, education, preparation, and mindset. That's all good stuff, but at the end of the day, your goal is to sell something to customers. This should never be forgotten.
"Learn who your customers are," said Sean O'Brien, CMO of Modloft. "It's best to know your customer inside and out, this way you are able to customize the product/service to specifically cater to them. Establishing a customer identity is key in business. Is there something your customers have been asking about or even demanding? Look into how you can bring that good or service to them."
This is the advice that some of us need to get back down to earth and focus on fundamentals.
Forks in the Road
We've all been at points in life where we know a change must be made to move forward. That principle applies to business as well, so learn to make decisive choices and follow through. This will serve you well when you reach those forks in the road.
"Pivoting is key for growth, said Roy Ferman, CEO of Seek Capital. "Pivoting will essentially give you the ability to make a sharp and assured decision when you are clearly at a turning point. If you want to consider yourself an overcomer, you must humble yourself enough to recognize when you need to turn around or go a different direction. This skill is very important for business leaders because this mode of thinking will always lead you to a path of success when you feel you have hit a dead end."
You can practice pivoting by making lifestyle changes or committing to new routines. Build that muscle and keep it strong.
No More Waiting
We all know that person who has so much potential and is always talking about their next great idea. For some reason, however, they never seem to get anything going.
This is often just a symptom of uncertainty, and business leaders know that action is always preferable to overthinking.
"The stars will never align, and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time," said Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Work Week. "The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. 'Someday' is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it's important to you and you want to do it 'eventually,' just do it and correct the course along the way."
Is there something in your life you've been putting off forever? Make it a priority and get some momentum going. It will take you far.
We tend to imaging business leaders as superheroes accomplishing everything on their own. That might be the TV-Movie version of events, but reality requires teamwork on a deep level.
That means smart delegation, collaboration, ongoing dialogue, and much more.
"The best advice I've received, that I choose to run my business on, is to learn along with your team," said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. "There's no use in pretending to know everything- admitting your faults and asking for help from your team is incredibly useful. This has been applicable to the past year, as we have all had to collaborate as a team to work around the stay-at-home orders."
Your team will be with you every step of the way, so learn to live and work with them to the best of your ability, starting now.
Some of us are just natural risk-takers, while others need to build up their risk tolerance over time through trial, error, and exposure.
There's no getting around the fact that risk is a prerequisite for success, so figure out a way to manage it if your goal is to own a business.
"The best advice I've received is being told to not be afraid of risk-taking," said Jing Gao, CEO of Fly by Jing. "There is always some risk when setting out to create a product and kickstart a business venture. The risk, however, varies upon your industry. For me, I set out to create a delicious and diverse chili sauce to represent my Sichuanese background and bring recognition to my culture's delicacies. In this, there was a good amount of risk. I would encourage all women, especially minorities setting out to create something they love, to take the risk."
Make a Mission
You might have a perfect elevator pitch for your business, but that's only going to take you so far. Great business founders think in terms of mission, which goes beyond simply making money or getting recognition from the public.
"Build your efforts around your brand's mission statement," said Danielle Calabrese, COO of De La Calle. "Producing content that is both relevant and educational on the history of our product has been key to educating consumers on why they need our modernized and health forward drink."
If your business lacks a mission, find one now - and put it above everything else.
Avoid Advice Overload
Here's the paradox we've all been waiting for: too much advice can be a bad thing. The great success stories aren't about giving or getting advice. They're about action, effort, and achievement.
"Don't take too much advice," said Ben Silbermann, Founder of Pinterest. "Most people who have a lot of advice to give - with a few exceptions - generalize whatever they did. Don't over-analyze everything. I myself have been guilty of over-thinking problems. Just build things and find out if they work."
If you're overdoing it on advice, make action your main goal and worry about the details later.
A company built on a bad foundation might have some time in the sun, but it won't last long. The strongest foundations begin with respect, and that goes for every level of the organization, top to bottom.
"The best advice that I was ever given was to ensure that my entire team treated one another with respect at all times," said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. "That's why we are really proud of the team that we have assembled - all based on mutual respect and working collaboratively together."
If lack of respect is an issue in your ranks, address it now so it doesn't bubble under the surface.
Think your business plan is perfect and that nothing can go wrong? Think again. That first plan might have potential, but it should only be the tip of the iceberg for your overarching strategy and your willingness to be resourceful.
"The best tip I've gotten for creating a successful startup is always having a backup plan," said Kaz Amor, Founder of VoCe Haircare. "If an element of your idea falls through, be prepared to be transformative. Also, if you decide to self-fund, be prepared to look at other avenues. It is always helpful to seek funding. Don't be set on your plans from the start. Industries change, times change, and trends change. Be flexible and you'll stay on top of it."
Feeling inspired yet? With all this great business advice at your fingertips, and you're ready to take on the world. Get to work now and don't look back!