They say advice is the worse kind of vice but if you’re ignoring the wisdom of those who have gone before, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.
That’s why we work hard to showcase the insights and skills of multiple experienced business owners here on the ShopKeep Blog. You’ll go further faster if you take the time to listen.
However, not all advice is created equal. There’s a lot of advice out there that you’d be better off just forgetting. We’ve rounded up some of the worst offenders.
Small Business Advice to Ignore:
Don’t Work With Family!
Tell that to the Koch brothers. Or Walmart. In fact, tell it to the one-third of all businesses in the S&P Index which are family-owned. That’s a huge slice of the economy. For every horror story about a family being pulled apart by their failing cupcake store, there are countless others who have built strong, successful businesses based on the mutual trust and respect afforded by working with family.
Trust Your Gut
It’s amazing how many times you’ll hear someone telling you to trust your instincts when you’re starting out in business. Ignore them. Trust your numbers instead. Take the time to put in place a process for growing your business that lets you build, measure, and learn your way to success. Treat your business like a giant testing ground – and use data analytics to lead you towards success.
Remember, whenever you hear someone telling you to ‘go with your gut’, you’re dealing with a completely skewed sample size. For every successful business person who tells you this, there are an untold number of people who went with their gut and saw their businesses collapse completely. By all means, make quick decisions. But make them based on quality data.
Never Work for Free
So, as a rule, being asked to work for free sucks. It’s horrible, it’s irritating, and it’s actually unethical. But it’s also a big part of what it takes to get started in many walks of life in the modern world. Countless writers, aspiring political advisors, and small business owners can attest to that fact.
Let’s consider a quick scenario. You’re a baker looking to open a cupcake store. And by some stroke of luck, Kim Kardashian tastes one of your cakes and falls in love. She says she’d like you to provide a hundred cakes for her daughter’s birthday party. Oh, and she’d like them completely free. What should you do?
Sure, the first thing you should probably do is play hardball and demand payment. But when that doesn’t work? You make your peace with it and make sure every single guest, journalist, and cameraman knows about your cupcakes. You go stocked with business cards and marketing materials and network like crazy. And you negotiate for Kim’s people to put your cupcakes up on her Instagram and Twitter feeds. In short, you find a way to extract value for your business beyond the monetary.
For a great introduction to how to consider the potential value of this kind of opportunity, check out this quick primer.
Follow Your Passion
This one might be my favorite.
Yes, nobody ever set up a successful business without having a little fire burning in their belly but the key point here is this:
All the passion in the world is not enough to turn a bad business into a good one.
Find the competitive hole in the marketplace. Find a product or service that your local area needs badly. Find a way to add value and improve an existing business model. Find something that will let your business stand out from the crowd in a meaningful way, because I promise, passion alone just isn’t enough.
Besides, passion is not an innate quality you have, it’s something that you must pursue and develop over time. If you find a great business idea that you think can really build into something, that long-term passion will follow.
You have to undercut the competition
Never. I repeat, never, compete on price. If you’re reading this, chances are you either operate or are hoping to operate a small, local business. And while there has never been a better time to run a small, local business, there has also never been a more competitive marketplace for most products and services.
So, how can you stay competitive if you’re not undercutting? Glad you asked. You need to stand out not as the cheapest place to buy snowboarding boots or to get a morning coffee, but as the best place. How do you do that? You do it by adding value to the customer experience.
You need to sell your snowboarding boots as better, unique, and unavailable at your competitors. Make sure you and your staff are seen as expert authorities on every aspect of your snowboarding boots. Provide unique tools for people to choose and try on their boots. Hold events where people can try on boots with multiple boards and meet people with similar passions and interests. Follow up by email after their purchase, offering a free in-store adjustment. Encourage them to follow you on social media for free hints and tips on snowboard boot maintenance. Make sure customers know they can pop in anytime for a completely free consultation on their setup.
Each step adds value to the customer experience and a dollar onto your snowboard boot selling price. If you compete on value, not price, you’ll enjoy the holy grail of small business – healthy margins and repeat business.