When I was 24, I launched my first startup. I wish that I could say it was a grand success, but it was an absolute failure. My cofounders and I took seed capital, fought amongst each other and eventually, realized that the company was built on a faulty premise. Like 75 percent of venture-backed startups, we crashed and burned. It was also during this time that I received some of the worst advice in my life.
Even today, more than a decade since my first venture, I hear people share and entrepreneurs follow through on these so-called “words of wisdom.” If you are thinking about or have launched a business, watch out for these poor pieces of advice.
1. If you’re really committed to it, you should quit your job and do this full-time.
Having more available time to work on your project won’t make you more successful. In fact, when your time is restricted, you value it more. You’re more focused and the constraints force you to be efficient. Instead of quitting your job, losing your main source of income and increasing your financial stress, learn how to do more with less. Hack your productivity by automating repetitive tasks, outsource those you can’t automate through a virtual assistant, and use the extra time to network and build a customer base.
Don’t think you have to go all in or nothing. Many of the most successful companies were built as a part-time hustle long before the founders made it their full-time gig.
2. Entrepreneurship is risky. You have to take risks.
Launching your own company or side hustle is not without risks, but not all entrepreneurs are brazen risk takers. In fact, most successful business owners do whatever they can to minimize risk.
According to Adam Grant’s Originals, the founders of Warby Parker held onto their jobs long past the point that the company was a success. They waited until they had a functional safety net and effective, revenue-generating business before they took major risks. As an entrepreneur, you have to weigh the benefits of growth versus the time, effort and costs associated with it.
3. Don’t tell anybody about your idea. They’ll steal it.
There’s always a story about someone who knew somebody who had their idea stolen. In all the years that I have known entrepreneurs, I’ve never personally seen this happen. Is it possible? Yes, but the hard truth is that most of the ideas that we think are brilliant are terrible.
You might not want to tell every person you meet your idea, but you should get real feedback from experts. Your friends will never tell you that your ideas are stupid. If you are going to run it by them, frame it as if it is someone else’s idea. This way, they won’t feel the need to hold back their true thoughts and feelings in fear of offending you.
If you are really concerned, NDA agreements are easy to find and download on the internet, but no investor worth their salt will sign one. They have probably been pitched the same idea by 10 other people, so they can’t afford to be locked into an NDA. Your execution is more important to them than your idea. Following this advice makes it more likely that you will spend two years of your life pursuing a stupid idea then have someone steal it from you.
4. You only get one shot at making a first impression, so don’t mess it up.
I hate to break this to you, but if you are approaching someone well known in the industry, they probably won’t remember you. Not that you aren’t wonderful, but they meet so many people every day that each face is another in the crowd. To you, it is a big deal, but for them, it may be one of a thousand interactions they’ll have that day.
Don’t worry so much about if you said or did the right thing. Instead, go out there make friends and be bold. However, remember that if you hear these four pieces of advice, proceed with caution. Listening and acting on them can hurt your career and startup success.