Bad advice for entrepreneursStarting a new business is always daunting. There are just so many balls to juggle.

Prioritizing all the tasks that entrepreneurs have to wrestle with is a constant battle. Everything is urgent, and everything is important.

No wonder then that new entrepreneurs are always hungry for advice from people who have already built successful businesses.

Their pearls of wisdom can help them avoid the mistakes that they made and provide some much-needed support.

Well, not always. Some of these entrepreneurial gems need to be challenged as they don’t stand up to scrutiny. In fact some of them are utter nonsense.

Here, we look at some bad advice that entrepreneurs should just ignore.

1. You need a high-profile office in the best part of town to show investors and customers that you’re serious

This advice couldn’t be more misguided. Wealthy landlords are the only beneficiaries of you renting an expensive office. It’s pure vanity for most, nothing more—and no one’s going to be impressed.

You’re most likely going to end up renting a tiny space at an exorbitant monthly fee and the contract terms are probably going to be hideous.

It’s possible that potential investors might question your judgement if you’re wasting funds on an impressive office when you should be concentrating on developing or marketing your product.

A more sensible approach is to rent a modest office with flexible terms at a sustainable price. No one is going to care if your office isn’t in the banking district or in the heart of the tech hub.

Renting desk space is another sensible option for startups. Many businesses are now looking to generate revenue from spare office capacity and terms tend to be flexible and low cost.

“Desk surfing” or coworking spaces can offer entrepreneurs great networking opportunities. Shared offices can be great places to share ideas and run into potential suppliers, partners, or customers.

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2. Your website is your shop window—it needs to have a high level of design to create high impact

Your website is undoubtedly one of your most important assets and it does need to present your business in a professional manner, but that doesn’t mean that it needs to cost the earth.

Before commissioning an expensive design agency, consider the thousands of excellent, high-quality website templates that can remodeled and adapted.

Choosing this option is not a cheap shortcut. It does not mean that you’ll be using awful stock photography or outdated designs. Most templates are indistinguishable from sites that have cost thousands.

Using web templates gives you complete control of your content, allowing you make changes without having to go back and incur more costs with an agency. This is about spending your budget wisely, and not obsessing over design details.

Visitors to your website are far more interested in a simple, logical site that gives them the information they need, with a well thought through navigation structure.

3. If you build it, they will come

This term comes from a 1989 baseball film called “Field of Dreams.” It starred Kevin Costner, and is about yearning to meet your heroes. By building a new stadium, he hoped to tempt the top baseball players to play in it.

The expression has come to mean that if you build something great that solves a problem, then people will find it and start using it.

It’s a neat catchphrase, but it’s a very dangerous idea for entrepreneurs to adopt. It suggests that simply by having a decent product, customers will automatically start forming an orderly queue.

So, if you took this advice to heart, you wouldn’t bother with anything as mundane as trying to sell your product. There’d be no need for any inbound or outbound marketing, and SEO would just be wasted effort.

It’s a ludicrous concept that should be consigned to the bin immediately. If you have a business idea, validate that someone wants to pay for your solution with some market research before you invest all your time and resources.

4. Your product or service needs to be unique

Entrepreneurs are constantly been lectured that success comes only by having a completely fresh idea, a “never seen before” concept that’s going to revolutionize your market or disrupt and industry.

It’s only by offering genuine innovation that you’ll make an impact in your chosen sector.

Why? It’s perfectly possible to become another successful player in any existing, crowded market. Your success depends on your ability to get your story across and convince buyers that they should use you.  

Having a completely new concept isn’t a prerequisite to becoming an entrepreneur. By choosing an existing sector, you at least have the knowledge that there’s an ongoing demand that you can tap into.

You still need to have a strong unique value proposition and have a genuine point of difference, but you don’t need to create a whole new sector.

A slightly humbler and more modest outlook is far less likely to end in failure.

5. You’ll need to work at least 12 hours a day; your new business will be all-consuming

I don’t know how many articles I’ve read insisting that if you start your own business, you can kiss goodbye to any sort of work/life balance.

Your fledgling business will dominate your entire life and you’ll be stuck in an endless cycle of checking emails, web stats, sign ups etc. There’s so much to do and only 24 hours in every day.

It is easy to let your work spiral out of control—but only if you let it.

And there’s good news too. Working a crazy 80 hour week is far more likely to lead you down the path to failure than working at a more sustainable level. Burning the midnight oil will not make you more successful.

By insisting that you schedule in time that is not spent working, you’ll be increasing your chance of success.


Be skeptical of any advice that sounds like it might just be a catchphrase, or a vaguely generic sentiment. Be critical of anything too woolly, and don’t accept any pearls of wisdom without specific evidence.

Starting your own business is hard enough without being distracted by advice that might be wholly incorrect or irrelevant.  

AvatarHenry Cazalet

Henry is a two-time entrepreneur, founder and director of The SMS Works, a low cost and robust SMS API for developers.