Beware of One-Size-Fits-All Business Advice

Last Tuesday I had the privilege of taking 10 half-hour appointments with student entrepreneurs developing business plans. The idea was listening, talking, suggesting, and maybe helping with a thought or two. What a kick that is. No wonder I love what I do for a living.

I started each of these sessions with a warning about one-size-fits-all business advice:

would-be mentors and advice givers contradict each other all the time.  Half the time the advice you get today is directly opposite the advice you got last week. And last week’s contradicted what you were told the month before.

Everybody who’s been down a path to entrepreneurship thinks theirs was the right path to take. And everybody else should do it exactly like they did. Get angel investment, or don’t. Have passion, or a big market. Build a team, or lever up. Grow quickly in several markets at once, or focus on a beachhead. Do it like I did. That’s what we all say.

But you have to have the strength to do it your way, not my way. Listen to me, absorb, digest, take some of what I said into your plan, or not. But it’s still your plan. And your business.

Aside: My Tuesday last week was at the University of Notre Dame’s Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which is one of the best such programs around. The Gigot Center makes me proud to be a Notre Dame grad (bias alert!), even though my time there was studying literature, not business. What they’re doing at the Gigot Center is all about good business sense combined with a uniquely Notre Dame vision. It begins with fundamentally sound business, but opens up to social business and family business as well.

(Image credit: Jen Tik, Flickr CC)


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