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The Worst Bad Advice for Small-Business Owners

1. Hire People You Know

What are the two most dangerous words in small business? “Known quantities.” Anyone who tells you that it’s better to assemble a staff of “known quantities”—friends, family members, former colleagues—doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

You are almost always better off focusing on the specific needs of your venture and targeting professionals whose background and skill sets will meet those needs. Additionally, if you want to keep your business lean and fighting-fit, then you need to be able to fire dead weight without a moment’s hesitation.

Naturally, you will be more reluctant to fire friends and family, even if you know that they aren’t creating value for your enterprise.

2. Faster Is Always Better

Speed to market is a critical factor in the financial health and success of many startups, and in the age of mobile connectivity, entrepreneurs are often encouraged to think in terms of “now.” That is why so many small-business owners tout their abilities to iterate quickly, reorganize on the fly, and respond to market signals.

But speed is not a component of success per se, and small-business owners need to make time to properly evaluate alternatives, sleep on proposals, or thoroughly debate an issue. Throughout your career, you will make dozens of good decisions on the fly, and your business will reap the benefits. However, a single bad decision can take months or years to correct. Just remember, everything takes time, even speed.

3. If You Want It Done Right, Do It Yourself

The most valuable commodity you will ever have is time (see Tip #2): time to consider, time to execute, to respond, and to adjust. From day one, managing your time effectively will be critical to the success of your business. And when it comes to the battle for minutes and hours, the best weapon in the world is delegation. Hire talented people, train them well, and then empower them to take ownership of specific tasks and responsibilities. As always, it is important that you thoroughly understand every task that is essential to your company’s success, but once you know it inside and out, go ahead and hand it off.

Author:

Marshall Walker Lee graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Michigan's Honors College with degrees in Writing and Philosophy. As a freelance writer and designer he has developed branding strategies and programming for J. Walter Thompson, Nike, the Kellogg Foundation, Spike TV, Sony Films, and General Motors. He is the co-founder and director of Poor Claudia, a 501(c)3 non-profit publishing enterprise based in Portland, Oregon.