Aspiring entrepreneurs and startup founders usually meet many people along their journey to success. During this journey they have to deal with the criticisms of the cynics, ignore the harsh pessimistic comments from the naysayers, and they also have to listen to the advice of many self-made “experts”.
At times some of this advice may be indeed helpful, especially if it’s coming from a notable and experienced individual, and it could save them from having to experiencing a whole lot of negative consequences. In fact, Robert Greene talks about how important mentors are in shaping and accelerating a person’s journey to mastery in his book, Mastery.
While advice from other notable entrepreneurs and mentors is always helpful, entrepreneurs have to also listen to some really ‘bad’ advice from their peers, family members, friends or even acquaintances. So we decided to ask a couple of entrepreneurs, what was the worst piece of advice they’ve ever received, and here’s what they had to say.
1. John Lim Chun Yan, Co-founder of Life Is Awesome
Life Is Awesome is an organic funding movement to raise capital and awareness for good causes. The startup partners with non-profit organisations every month, and they design a unique tee to reflect their mission. They then donate RM5 from every sale to that month’s charity or non-profit.
“The most common and worst advice I personally have come across is, ‘It will never work.’ Very often this advice will come from someone who is very close to you (family/relatives),” he said. “But at the end of the day, even though things don’t really work out, at least, we’ve experienced and learned throughout the journey.”
He also added, “And most importantly there will be no regrets!”
2. Rachel Chew & Anni, Founders of Pebble Paper Design
Pebble Paper Design is a paper goods and design label founded by Anni Tai and Rachel Chew.
She was told, “You’re too young to start a business.” Rachel also recalled being asked, “Stationeries? Will people buy them now that they rely more on tech?”
Anni on the other hand was told, “Why do you want to start this? Someone else has already done this.”
3. Desmond How, Flexi Storage
Flexi Storage is a service that provides flexible, secure and reliable self storage space that people can use to store their belongings.
“As an entrepreneur the worst advice we have probably received is to do what you love to do,” he said.
However he highlighted, “Instead of doing things you love, we should focus on things that we’re good at. The reason is everyone has multiple passions but it won’t lead to a successful career. Therefore, focus on effort and follow it. Leave things you love to do as your hobby.”
4. Kenny, FoodAdvisor
FoodAdvisor.my is a platform that people can use to discover the most recommended spots based on their location and their choice of food and drink.
Someone advised him and his partner to take up a personal loan at a very early stage, even before they validated their product. However his mentor told him, “Do not take up any responsibilities before you prove anything. And grow it even with limited resources. Use friends to help. Sell your vision and ideas to them.”
Fortunately, they listened to the latter advice.
5. Josh Lim, Founder of LikesBeforeLove.com; Consultant at ReferJobs.my
Josh Lim is a consultant that advises and coaches individuals on how to grow their Facebook pages and to create more engagement.
Josh Lim recalled one of his previous bosses who believed in making decisions as quickly as possible. His rationale was that you’d have to post rationalise the decision anyway, so why wait?
“The way he said it…it’s as if you should eat fast, because it all ends up as shit anyway,” Josh commented.
He also mentioned another person that did the complete opposite. This person believed in making decisions as late as possible even if it costs money, as it would at least give them enough time to think things through and make sure it was worth it.
“I made my decisions keeping in mind the middle ground between these two bad pieces of advice,” Josh added.
6. Jes Min Lua, Founder of Recomn.com
RecomN.com is a platform that you can use to find recommended service providers in Malaysia.
“You should work for my company, instead of working on your own. You don’t have a technical background, it will be very hard for you to make any progress on your own,” she said.
She believes that this is not the case, simply because it implies that you need a full set of skills to be an entrepreneur. “You don’t but you need to partner and hire to complement your own skills,” she advised.
7. Jessie Chong, Boozeat
Boozeat an online marketplace that offers a selection of highly sought after wines and spirits, and party packages that can be delivered to your doorstep within 24 hours.
The worst piece of advice that she has ever received was, “You can’t survive on passion.”
“When you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll pour in unlimited efforts, that feels effortless to you. Steering your passion and harness the energy to apply in the right areas, you can definitely survive on passion, and it can even exceed your dream goal,” she mentioned. “Without passion, it’ll be dreadful to put in every bit of effort. It’s about finding a balance between being passionate and putting in effort in the right areas.”
8. Evelyn Marieta, Wunderbath
Wunderbath focuses on creating all natural, vegan and handmade bath products and cosmetics.
“You don’t need to be profitable as a startup, you just have to grow the brand.”
She thinks that this statement is very misleading to new business owners simply because many don’t understand the difference between startups and small businesses that are just starting up.
“As for Wunderbath, there was a sales target since day one and I told myself that if I can’t prove market acceptance in 3 months, I’d have to find a new job,” she added firmly.
9. Jan Wong, OpenMinds Resources
Open Minds Resources is a team of social media strategists that works with businesses to create an optimised social media strategy for them.
Jan recalled being told that he needed funds to succeed, and when he was 17 he was told, “You’re too young. Go get a job!”
He said that he feels really glad that he did not follow suit.
10. Low Ziwei, Co-founder of Zcova
Zcova is a personalised consultation service that sources diamonds that meet both your budget and your requirements, and they also assist you in the design and fitting of the ring.
Ziwei recently received a piece of advice that he was completely baffled by. He was told, “Forget your failures and move on.”
He believes that as an entrepreneur, one must never forget their failures but one should always learn from the past and grow from their mistakes. “Forgetting your failures will most definitely ensure you repeat your mistake.”
He also mentioned a quote from Johnny Cash, “You build on failure. You use it as a stepping-stone. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it.”
11. Sze Jun King, Founder of Cardpow
CardPow is a website that shoppers could use to compare credit/debit card discounts and promotions.
We’ve all heard the maxim, “Customers are always right!” However, King learnt from first-hand experience that this isn’t the case before they built their first app in 2014. They asked a group of people what they felt about push notifications and everyone said that it was annoying but a year after the app was built, most of them wanted push notifications.
“Customers can be very fickle and technology can change the way we react to technology overnight, so don’t make immediate changes just because a few people said so. The consumers aren’t always right; listen and research, get out of the building and ask as many people before actually doing it,” he added.
12. Fareez Shah, Founder of Fareez Shah & Partners
Fareez Shah is a local advocate who runs his own law firm called Fareez Shah & Partners, targeted towards startups, SMEs, SEs and business called Fareez Shah & Partners.
“You’re too young, you should wait until you have more experience before venturing out on your own,” he said in regards to the worst advice he has ever received. “Oh and, eat your vegetables.”
13. Jonathan Koshy, Venuescape
Venuescape is a Malaysian-based startup company backed by a team who specialises in event management, and they help people to seek the right venue for their event.
“Do the work first and worry about structuring later,” he said. However he learnt over time that without a proper foundation and structure, things just wouldn’t work. He was also told, “Do it for the money,” but he said, “Money may be great, but nothing comes close to being passion driven as everything will fall into place when you love what you do.”
14. Bobby Ong, Beely
Beely is a marketing platform that directs crowd traffic to retail stores and rewards consumers with points that may be exchanged for special deals.
He was once told, “A dollar saved is a dollar earned.” However, he believes that only bad business models do this. And sometimes he was even told that if the startup doesn’t have enough funds to run, they should simply cut cost.
But he looked at the same situation and said, “Why not just make more money instead?”
15. Syakirin Rosik, Thrift-On-Wheels
Thrift-On-Wheels is a social enterprise that connects consumers of fashion with those that want are looking to get rid of their clothes.
“Worst piece of advice I’ve ever received would be to keep my job and not to go into business,” she said.
16. Aj Sangwan, Co-founder of TribeHired
TribeHired is a talent marketplace where companies compete amongst themselves to hire top talent.
The worst advice Aj received as an entrepreneur was being told that they should use their capital for growth and look for further investment in the meantime. However, he feels that startups should grow by making the business sustainable through revenue and a proper cash flow.
“Moreover, it allows more visionary control over the startup, We are expanding now solely based on our revenue while doing the things that befit our bigger vision of disrupting recruitment further,” he explained.
17. Francesca Chia, Co-founder of GoGet.my
GoGet.my is a platform that you could use to outsource your tasks, and the community of GoGetters will ensure that they’re completed for you.
She was once told, “Be your own boss, and it’s so much better to have your own business as you’d be your own boss.” However, she disagreed. She believes that is not a good reason to start a business.
In fact, “You would want to work so much for the company it’s harder to turn off. Rather I work for my team because they are my number one priority. And starting a business is not about being the boss,” she said.
18. Magdelin Tan, PropSocial
PropSocial is a property-based portal that features honest reviews from the community, along with an easy-to-use interface that allows users to find their ideal property within minutes.
The worst advice Magdelin ever heard was, “When starting a business, focus on what makes you the most money and how to generate the most revenue.”
However, she believes that entrepreneurs should have an initial objective to build a product that helps to ease the society’s day-to-day challenges and that would be the key to success.
19. Jared Lim, Loanstreet
Loanstreet is a fin-tech startup that offers independent loan and credit card comparison tools along with one-on-one tele-guidance to guide customers through the entire decision making process, free of charge.
Jared was once asked to give up a huge chunk of his ownership to some politically connected guy with a title. Speaking about that incident he said, “I wasn’t even sure that he knew enough what we were about, only that he was connected and we were told that he could get us favours because of that person’s connections.”
20. Agnes Leong, DIYKL
DIYKL is a do-it-yourself collective aimed to unleash a sense of inner creativity, where one can shop through their handpicked DIY kits, or purchase intricate rhinestones, as well as tools and supplies to create their very own unique-to-self piece.
“You do not need such a fancy website with payment options. Just receive orders via email,” Agnes said, was the worst piece of advice to her.
“We decided to stick to our guts that we could create a beautiful online store with an easy shopping online experience despite having to go through a number of paperwork. The effort paid off and saved us a lot of time dealing with orders!”