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The Big Problem with Business Advice


If you ever catch me in a bookshop (which isn’t too hard to do!), there’s a good chance you’ll find me in the business section. Likewise, most of my feedly subscriptions are all about business and marketing.

That’s because I believe education is a life-long process. If I’m not keeping up with the latest trends, it could damage my business.

Business books and blogs, as well as advice from other entrepreneurs, have been essential to my success. Without them, I wouldn’t have a business.

But the truth is, there’s a big problem with business advice.

What Business Books Can Never Give You

Business books can give you pointers along the road to success. They provide direction, but they won’t do the work for you. Unless you implement what you learn, business books won’t change anything.

Plus, there are some things business books can never give you, no matter how many you read.

Grit. Typically, business books have a hefty dose of motivational speak. But no matter how inspiring a book is, ultimately your determination to succeed comes from within. It’s the days when everything goes wrong that define who you are as an entrepreneur. Will you bury your head in the sand? Or will you pick yourself up and dust yourself down to fight another day?

Vision and instinct. Some people got it, and some don’t. Learning new business ideas can help hone your entrepreneurial instincts. But there are too many business books in the world to implement all their ideas. Do you have the business nous to dig out the diamonds from the coal?

Innovation. The businesses that get ahead are the business who innovate. If you get all your business ideas from business books, then you’ll always be behind the times. In pursuit of your vision you sometimes need to ignore the advice of the crowd and carve your own path.

Business books are great. But don’t expect them to give you everything you need.

Talking to other entrepreneurs is a good idea too. They can give you the view from the trenches (unlike the writers of business books, many of whom sit safely behind the lines in business HQ).

That said, don’t take everything they say to heart.

The Problem With Well-Intentioned Advice

If you’re lucky enough to find an experienced business owner who’s willing to take you under his or her wing and offer you free business advice, you should jump at the opportunity.

There’s nothing like a mentor in giving you the help and motivation you need to succeed.

That said, when you’re listening to entrepreneurs and business owners, you should be on alert, because you’re unlikely to get the full truth. It’s not that they’re out to mislead you, but you do have to be careful. That’s for three reasons.

First, business owners tend to be hopelessly optimistic. They got where they are today by relentlessly pursuing their vision against the odds. Be wary of mentors who only act as cheerleaders and fail to help you see what needs improving in your business.

Second, advice from business veterans is typically out-of-date. How they succeeded yesterday is different from how the new generation of entrepreneurs will succeed tomorrow.

Third, it’s a brutal world out there. Most business owners are kind-hearted people. On the other hand, business is competitive. When one of your competitors gives you advice, look at it carefully. Are they genuinely trying to help? Or are they putting you off the scent of their plans to dominate the market?

What Advice Do You Find Helpful?

Three of my favourite sources of business advice online are:

And of course, there’s the Veeqo blog.

What blogs and books have you found most useful in setting up and running your business?

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Written by David Masters

Latest posts by David Masters see all

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