You’ve heard it all before. “Just be yourself.” “If It’s not broken, don’t fix it.” “Everything happens for a reason.” If you haven’t thrown up yet, give it a second -- it’ll come. We’re just as sick of hearing silly, counterintuitive advice as you are. But given the fast-pace of business, it can be hard to distinguish useful advice from harmful ‘help.’ Fortunately, we’ve got Victor Abundis, Co-founder and COO of Interpreter Tap, and Garry Cooper, CEO and Co-founder of Rheaply, to help us weed out a number of terrible tips.
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It’s like John Lennon once said -- we all get by with a little help from our friends. But even though our buddies, families, or colleagues might have the best intentions in mind, they can often be as detrimental as they are helpful. Nowhere is that more evident than in the advice that they share. They might mean well, they might have experience, and they might be very successful, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for you or your business.
With that said, here are five popular startup tips that often do more harm than good.
- Raise Money From Friends and Family
Victor Abundis of Interpreter Tap, a mobile app that connects its users with live interpreters, says that many investors and mentors have told him to follow the friends and family route for funding. But for Abundis, who was born and raised on the southside of Chicago, that wasn’t a reality; his family didn’t have huge savings nor did most of his friends. Abundis’ says that investors who have the mindset of fundraising from friends and family first are alienating founders who don’t have that luxury.
“You’ll hear things like, ‘why are you looking for angel investing or why are you looking for C-Funding if you haven’t even gone the friends and family route yet?’ Well, that doesn’t apply to everyone and a lot of people in my community don’t have the luxury to invest $2,000 because that amount means the world to them.” – Victor Abundis, COO, Interpreter Tap
- Always Be Raising
‘Always be closing.’ It’s a popular sales saying that many entrepreneurs have modified, embraced, and transformed into the phrase ‘always be raising.’ And while we have to admit that there’s a certain ring to it, we’re also pretty sure that it’s terrible advice. Garry Cooper of Rheaply, an online platform that allows scientists to list, view, and trade surplus supplies and knowledge, says that fundraising is a good idea once you’ve established your business metrics -- but not beforehand.
“Raising money because you have a great idea is generally just bad advice. It’s important to first figure out where your product is, who your customers are, and how you can reach them. Once you’ve done some research, then you can decide if you need to market in order to get to your customers or build out your product some more -- which are all good reasons to raise money.” – Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply
- Ignore the Haters
There are always going to be naysayers; from the moment you’re running on the playground to the day you start running your business, you are told to ignore them. While there are certainly some benefits in tuning out those who are bit too critical of your business, a little skepticism can actually help you improve your bottom line; in fact, Abundis believes that agreeability is often more detrimental to your mission and goals.
“The yes-men are dangerous in the startup world because you need to hear what people think is wrong, even if it might not be true. If someone is skeptical, I always try and listen to them because I want to know why they are skeptical. You want to hear criticism often, because without it, you can’t take constructive actions to grow and improve.” – Victor Abundis, COO, Interpreter Tap
- Join an Accelerator
With all the buzz around accelerators today, it’s not uncommon to hear experts recommend that you join one when you first develop your startup. While it’s not bad advice, it’s also a commitment that you should only make if you really need to -- Cooper says he’s seen founders join accelerators simply because other founders were doing it or because they thought it would bring them immediate success.
“A lot of young companies join accelerators very early on in their development. At that stage, you should really consider the value of an accelerator. If you’re saying things like ‘I need help with something,’ or ‘I need advice on something,’ or ‘I need mentorship,’ then an accelerator is a great option, but don’t join one just because you have cash to burn.” – Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply
- Wait for the ‘Right’ Moment
Perhaps the most common advice that founders hear is that they have to finish a checklist of different items before they launch their business or a product or service. There is such a thing as due diligence but often, the silent killer for many a startup has been overanalysis and procrastination. Yes, you want to make sure you do your research and you have your numbers, but there’s no way that you’re going to get feedback or make improvements to your business if you wait for the stars to align.
Cooper also points out that if you don’t start working on your ideas, someone else might.
“Sometimes you think ‘if I don’t do X, Y, or Z well, my idea is going to fail and I’m not going to be able to eat,’ but that’s rarely how it goes. If you have a business idea and you’ve done some level of analysis, then you need to get started. Do not wait. If you wait, the time that is going to bring your business to market might pass, or worse, someone is going to develop the business that you thought of -- and that’s way worse than failing." – Garry Cooper, CEO, Rheaply
These are just a few examples of bad advice that founders and entrepreneurs hear on a daily basis. And while it’s still important to take guidance from those who have been there and done that, it’s also paramount to remember that no one -- not Elon Musk, not Bill Gates, not Mark Zuckerberg -- knows your business better than you do.