The Best Small Business Advice to Actually Follow

You may or may not have heard the expression, “Opinions are like belly buttons — everyone has one.” And, you may or may not have heard it said with other terms in place of “belly buttons.”

Unlike unicorns, Bigfoot and the Lock Ness Monster, there’s no shortage of small business advice. A quick online search will bring up results like, 101 Quotes from Today’s Leading Entrepreneurs or 50 Small Business Tips to Change the World, etc. 

How Do You Know Which Small Business Advice You Should Follow?

In a National Public Radio (NPR) discussion on identifying fake news, Alexios Mantzarlis, the Director of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute, described the process of fact checking as, “Isolating the claim that is being made and finding the best primary sources on the topic.”

In plain terms, it means you should first consider your source. Then, look at what they’re saying and why they’re saying it. For example, if a source has never run a successful company, that should be a huge red flag.

If you want to get really industrious, you can also look for sources that contradict or oppose the original claim and see where everything nets out. 

Finally, on a personal level, there’s the “Does this really apply to me?” test. Some advice is timeless and universal, other quips can be so narrow that they only apply in certain circumstances or industries.

Ultimately, you are your own best filter. If you think someone is blowing smoke, it’s ok to leave those ideas floating in the ether. If it just makes sense or simply inspires you, take it to heart and take it away!  


Real Advice From the People Who’ve Been There, Done That and Own It. 

The following is only a sampling, or tip of the iceberg, in terms of the sheer volume of small business advice that’s out there. In reality, “truth” comes in all forms with sources ranging from icons and future icons to everyday people working hard to make their small businesses a success. Which advice will work for you? Here’s a chance to test out the tools you just learned. 

“In a world that's changing so quickly, the biggest risk you can take is not taking any risk.”

            — Peter Thiel, Co-Founder, PayPal 


“You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over — and it's because you fall over that you learn to save yourself from falling over. It's the greatest thrill in the world and it runs away screaming at the first sight of bullet points.” (Because of this comment, the use of bullets has been avoided in this post).

 ― Richard Branson, Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur


"It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive."

           — Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook


“The best metaphor I have for scaling a company is building one of those huge, complex towers out of Legos. The emotions you feel when new people are coming in and taking over pieces of your job — it’s not that different from how a kid feels when they have to share their Legos. At a scaling company, giving away responsibility — giving away that Lego tower you started building — is the only way to move on to building bigger and better things.”

           — Molly Graham, COO of Quip and Former Facebook Culture Architect


“I have recently learned a huge lesson in that you need to monitor your business and those who work for you. If you do not check in, you cannot hold your employees accountable for their actions and when you come to realize it, you have a bigger problem than you expected.”

            — Elizabeth Colon, 2014 Illinois Best Small Business Person of the Year


“Work hard to clarify what your purpose is and how to communicate it in a simple sentence… As you begin to bring people into your company, the first question you should ask is, ‘Why are you here?' If you hear that purpose echoed back, it makes everything else a whole lot easier.” 

            — Jack Dorsey, Co-Founder and CEO of Twitter and Square


“Spend 15 minutes a day in reflection — true reflection, in a quiet space, with your inbox closed.”

            — Chris Holmberg, Executive Coach


“First: The best way to know if you’re onto something is if someone is willing to pay you for it. Don’t ask your family members for validation of your business idea, ask a paying customer. Secondly: If you don’t know the language of business, which is finance, you’re going to go out of business. If you’re not good at it, outsource it.”

            —   Robert Herjavec,  Self-Made, Cyber-Security Millionaire


“Small business owners must be constantly thinking about increasing revenues and reducing expenses. Price matters and the pennies count. Find a vendor with a fee structure that works for you and make sure the contract you are asked to sign does not have hidden fees or acceleration clauses, and be comfortable with the duration of the terms.”

  — John C. Woodman, Creditor/Debtor Rights and Business Litigation Attorney, Sodoma Law, P.C.


“The best advice to a small business owner... is never stop thinking about how to delight your customer. Not to satisfy your customer, but to delight your customer. And when you wake up in the morning, start thinking about it. During the day, think about it. At night, think about it. And then dream about it.”

            —   Warren Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway


“Instead of being paralyzed by your lack of knowledge, distill your questions into the one specific question you need answered to move forward with your business. Then, find the best possible expert or resource to answer that question and ask it. Listen to the answer, write it down, think about it, and then implement it and continue on your journey.”

            —  Danielle Tate, Founder and CEO,


“The best piece of start-up advice I ever received was from my father. He spoke to me about placing expectations on other people. If you don’t have any expectations for others, you can never be disappointed. This might sound grim or sad, but at the core it's a belief in self-reliance. It taught me the importance on getting the job done without a helping hand. It also taught me to appreciate the people who actually come through for me.”

            — Sebastien Dupéré, Owner, President and CEO, Dupray 


"The best advice I ever got was from an ex-Harvard Business School professor and best-selling business author, David Maister, who was a client of mine for a number of years. He told me that your career and success would be defined by what you said no to, not what you said yes to. This was very counterintuitive to me as a young entrepreneur, but it's wisdom that has really proved true through the years."

            — Justin Evans, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Landr 


“Take the time to recharge. Many entrepreneurs feel like they are ‘wasting time’ or dare I say guilty, if they aren’t 'switched on' all the time — thinking about the business or how to move it forward. The truth is my best ideas usually come from moments when I’ve felt relaxed or happy. My golden rule is that I don’t work on Saturdays. I try to even stay away from reading emails, but if I do, I rarely respond. This has helped me tackle the next week with a much better disposition.”

           — Shrad Rao, CEO, Wagepoint 


Where Can You Go To Find Good Small Business Advice?

In an infographic on their blog, FinTech startup Fundera lists The 34 Best Places to go for Small Business Advice. One very important point they call out is local meet-ups and networking events, underscoring the fact that no one knows what you're going through like someone else who's going through exactly the same thing.


Finally, Which Small Business Advice Should You Avoid at all Costs?

As it turns out, Small Business Trends asked exactly the same question. Long story short, if it’s a tired cliché like, “Do what you love.” or “If you build it, they will come.” — you may just want to walk (or run) away very quickly. If you’re feeling brave, read the full article.


Guest Post Author

This article is a guest post from our friends at Wagepoint — who also made our list of The Best 5 Online Payroll Services for Your Small Business