You find yourself standing on the brink of your first try starting your own business. Looking downwards into confusion. Passion? Perseverance? The idea? The plan? What comes first? What’s most important? There’s a world of advice out there, lots of it conflicting, contradictory advice. Far too much to use and digest.

I just discovered Jim Price‘s the Best Advice I Ever Received piece from just a couple of months ago on Business Insider. That’s a double win for readers: first, because he offers 20 different favorite pieces of advice from other entrepreneurs; second because Jim Price knows entrepreneurship very well. I’ve known Jim for 34 years. He’s a class act.

Jim Price Startup Advice

His post asks this question:

“What is the single best piece of advice you received — or wish you’d received — when you were just starting out as an entrepreneur?”

His list of 20 includes these short gems:

  • “Never confuse activity with progress.”
  • “Do you trust – really trust – your prospective business partners and cofounders?”
  • “Hire slowly. Fire quickly.”
  • “You’re better off having a great team with a lousy idea than a mediocre team with a great idea.”
  • “If you don’t like the rules, change them.”

And two slightly longer ones that hit some of my favorite advice:

  • “A company defines itself by what it says ‘no’ to. Translation: A startup’s success, and its very character, are defined by the clarity and focus of its mission, and then by how well the business’s leaders stay true to that focus and steer clear of distractions. Corollary: The devil always arrives carrying cash. Translation: The things that can distract startups away from their originally-intended mission are often business deals that tempt the management team with short-term cash.”
  • “Focus. It’s so easy to say, ‘With our fantastic new approach or technology, we can solve problems everywhere.’ But if you do that, your efforts will be diluted. Instead, by first focusing on a market niche you can become truly great at addressing, your startup has the best shot at success.”

And my absolute favorite on business planning:

“Eisenhower’s observation about preparing for battle applies remarkably well for us as entrepreneurs: “’I have always found plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’”

But there’s a few pieces I have to add. I can’t resist. I have a category called advice on my blog at Planning Startup Stories. These are my absolute favorites:

  1. The biggest mistake is mistaking business for life.
  2. Understanding uncertainty is vital to entrepreneurs. You don’t get to know. You have to guess. Make them educated guesses, but they’re still guesses.
  3. You have to be able to deal with mistakes. You’ll make mistakes.
  4. Don’t believe advice. Don’t follow advice. Good advice often makes bad things happen. (Yes, I get the irony here.) Everything is case by case. Receive advice gratefully, think about it, then make your own version of it if and only if that works for you.

Conclusion? Thanks Jim. And thanks to the wise people who contributed to your list. And here’s my addition.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.