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5 Toxic Pieces of Advice That All Entrepreneurs Should Ignore

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Making the momentous decision to start your own business is a life changing move.
There’s much at stake and so much to do. 

There are multiple hats to wear and balls to juggle. Everything is urgent and everything is high priority.

To help maintain calm and order, many entrepreneurs look for reassurance and guidance from the plentiful supply of wise gurus that have already built successful businesses and who are all too eager to dispense their wisdom to an eager audience.

Their pearls of wisdom will help them steer clear of the pitfalls that are awaiting them on the road to building their new business.

Except, this is not always the case. 

Many of these ‘entrepreneurial gems’ are trotted out with little or no thought and are often just plain misleading or flat wrong.

Here, we investigate 5 toxic start-up clichés that new entrepreneurs should avoid at all costs.

We need a high-status office in the center of town to show our customers and investors that we’re a player

This advice is way off the mark. 

Office landlords are the only ones who are going to be impressed by this decision. The vanity of an impressive office soon wears thin as the relentless rent requests keep rolling in, month after month.

The space you can afford is likely to be tiny and the contract terms could cripple you for years.

Worse than the financial strain that an expensive office will bring, is the fact that potential investors and customers might question your judgment.

Wasting resources on an extravagant office, when you should be concentrating on developing your product or customer base, could come across as poor decision making.

A more sensible strategy is to rent modest office space with flexible terms that will allow you to expand as your team grows.

No one is going to care that you’re not located in the main banking district or tech hub.

An alternative to traditional office rental is renting desk space. Many businesses are now looking to generate revenue from spare office capacity and terms can be flexible and low cost.

Most cities have a thriving desk renting sector that allows start-ups to get the space they need without being tied into lengthy and onerous contracts.

‘Desk surfing’ also presents start-ups with great networking possibilities. Shared offices can be great for sharing ideas and meeting potential suppliers or customers.

Our website is how we present ourselves to the world. It needs to have a high level of design

This advice is perfectly sound. Your website is obviously one of your most important assets and it’s crucial that it presents your offering in a professional, informative and persuasive manner.

This doesn’t mean however that it needs to cost a fortune or that you need to wheel in the city’s top digital agency.

Creating a high-quality website can now be achieved in-house and at low cost. There are dozens of companies offering thousands of high-quality web templates that can be reworked and adapted.

Choosing a template option is not a short cut or cheap alternative. You do not need to use cliched stock photography or be stuck with a rigid and inflexible format. Most template websites are indistinguishable from sites that cost thousands.

Using a template gives you complete control of your web content, allowing you to make changes and add content, without having to incur more costs with a web agency.

Visitors to your website are far less interested in the design of your site than you are. They would like well structured content, with a clear navigation structure that gives them the information they need in a clear and accessible way.

You’ll be working flat out. Expect no work-life balance

Seasoned entrepreneurs all too often parade their ridiculous working hours as a badge of honour.

The perceived expectation is that as a new entrepreneur, you can expect long days, late nights and a pretty unhealthy lifestyle.

Your new business will be all-consuming, leaving little time for friends, family or leisure.

While it is understandable that work can spiral out of control, the undeniable evidence is that if you work crazy hours then you’ll be far less effective at your job.

Any work that you put in over about 45 hours week will have diminishing returns and you’ll be less effective the next day or following week.

By insisting you maintain a healthy work-life balance, you’ll be increasing your chance of success and your employees will be happier and more effective.

A detailed business plan lies at the heart of every start-up

Most of us have had it drilled into us that we need a detailed business plan before we can even think of starting our own business.

We need charts, tables, projections and plenty of them. They need to be embedded in a meaty document that should land with a reassuring thud onto the desk of any would be investor.

The document needs to fronted by a pithy executive summary that explains, in a couple of pages, how we’re going to change the world.

The only problem here is that business plans aren’t based on what’s going on in the real world. You can almost guarantee that as soon as a fledgling business presses ‘publish’ on their new website, the document is never referred to ever again.

The truth is that business plans tie young businesses to a rigid path that may very quickly be revealed as a bad idea. For most, detailed business plans are waste of time.

Of course, start-ups need to have a clear vision of their market, growth strategy and a whole host of other elements but it’s a bad idea to tie yourself to an inflexible document.

Our company needs to be unique in solving a particular problem 

Entrepreneurs are frequently reminded that their product or service has to solve some particular issue or problem in a unique and clearly defined way.

It’s only by bringing genuine innovation to a market that you’ll make an impact in your chosen sector.

Why? This idea needs challenging. It’s non-specific, patronising waffle. 

It’s perfectly possible to enter an existing crowded market and become another successful player. You don’t need to be changing the world, just offering good products, great service and at a competitive price.

Your success depends on your ability to convey your benefits and convince buyers to use you.

By entering an existing market, you at least have the certainty that there’s an existing demand that you can take advantage of.

You’ll still need to have a strong and demonstrable point of difference but there’s no need to create a whole new sector.


Be very wary of any advice that sounds like a jaunty catchphrase or cliché.

If advice sounds vague, imprecise and unbacked by evidence, treat it with suspicion and consign it to the bin.

Getting a new business off the ground is hard enough as it is, without getting distracted by advice that could be more hinderance than help.

Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Just because someone has success doing things in a particular way, it doesn’t follow that their way is the only way.

About the author


Henry Cazalet

Henry is a two-time entrepreneur, founder and director of The SMS Works, a low cost and robust SMS API for developers. Although SMS is clunky and outdated, it remains devilishly effective as a way of communicating, so he spends his time helping companies make the most it. Henry also writes on a range of topics from mobile marketing to entrepreneurship.

He can be contacted at LinkedIn