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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

41 of the Best Things Entrepreneurs AVOIDED in Building Their Business

Written By: Carol Roth | 8 Comments

Sometimes, as I noted in a recent blog post, the things that you don’t do in business are as important as what you actually do. So I have again reached out to my network of respected experts and entrepreneurs to find out the one best thing that they avoiding doing that paid off in spades for their business. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar concepts, but I kept the insights separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. Not Going Against My Gut

When it came time for a website, I wanted a soft yellow website with butterflies in grayscale: symbols of growth and change. Some advisors were against this, feeling that potential male patients would not like the yellow or the butterflies. I felt strongly that I wanted butterflies, so I went ahead with them. I love my website. And so do my male patients. I have a 50:50 mix of men and women. When it came time for my author website, I had her do the same photos in color. Ravishing!
Thanks to: Susan Delphine Delaney MD, MS of susandelaneyauthor.com.

2. Don't Listen to Old Farts

When I started my business, I scheduled an appointment with a local advisor. I was told that if I waited a few weeks, I could get a one on one with a former lingerie buyer who could be a wonderful resource for me. I waited and talked with him and he told me my business would never succeed because I didn't have pastels. He told me I could never use the words "menopause or night sweats" and by all means use 18-24 year old thin models for my over 40 sleepwear!
Thanks to: Haralee Weintraub of Haralee.Com.

3. Stop Talking, Start Doing

One of the best things I didn't do when starting my business was sign over equity in the company to people who have excellent experience, creative ideas, and are fun to be around, but don't get much done. Holding off on equity decisions until each person had proven or dis-proven themselves was a key decision that helped boost morale, productivity, and the longevity of the business. It's not about people; it's about the right people.
Thanks to: Brett Relander of Tactical Marketing Labs.

4. Logic Vs Passion

The passion to build a good web presence, CMS, CRM and billing system felt compelling. But doing the research for the best solution sets and then self-integrating them would have logically been a disaster. But managing the process and soliciting experts allowed me to focus on what I do best - engage with clients! There are times that I say; "shoulda, coulda, woulda" but the decisions stand well. We all have our heads for logic and passion, just be sure to make decisions with the right head 🙂
Thanks to: Bob Egan of Sepharim Group.

5. Diversity for Fun and Profit

Years ago, when Paul Orfalea was still at the helm at Kinko's, I managed the Western Canadian sales team. My clients, who included some of the largest companies in the region, kept asking me to produce materials for them OTHER than standard photocopying. This was a profitable business. I was told by Kinkos that I had a choice, stop doing 65% of my business (the non-photocopy side of the business) or I would be fired. I walked & still have some of those clients today, 15 years later.
Thanks to: Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc..

6. Wish I Did This!

Best thing I didn't do - buy costly software I wanted badly. I couldn't afford it and desperately tried everything in my power to get it. I thought for sure it would generate revenue beyond my wildest dreams. I just couldn't scrounge up the money. This was a blessing in disguise, as it would have been a complete waste.

One thing I wish I did better was lend a keen ear to my wife. I was too proud to listen to her opinion. I wasted so much time and lost income by being stubborn. That has changed!
Thanks to: Chris Goegan of Engineered Marketing Solutions.

7. High Rent or Re-brand?

Regarding our photography studios- on par with our competition in business, we did not want to commit to the same high rent and large loan for finish out. These decisions were made in the best of times. Fortunately, now in the worst of times, we had opted for lower rent, much less finish out (did in cash) and re-branded ourselves as high end, boutique photography. Remember, for every $1,000 in overhead, you have to do $4,000 in sales. We saved ourselves from having to do $20,000/mo. in sales.
Thanks to: Kevin Hamilton of Idapt Media.

8. Outside the Box

I avoided the hype to start my business(es) of using traditional standards and chose instead to think "outside the box" in accomplishing goals. Office leases, expensive office equipment, large staff, etc. were traditional signs of business presence and success. We now operate in the technology age, where the same tasks held by traditional roles can be accomplished in more effective and efficient ways.
Thanks to: Sherell Edwards of Christian Women's Leadership Exchan.

9. Let Them Think You're Crazy

Recently, I had the opportunity to purchase and develop a commercial property. The purchase price was 2.6MM for the property (valued at 5MM) and 2.5MM to build. Everyone I talked to, consultants, family, friends and my attorneys advised me not to do it; they all said that the costs were too high, the mortgage payment is not sustainable and I'd go bankrupt. They all said "You're Crazy" if you do this. I did it anyway. Today, that property produces over 700K in net profit per year. Listen to your gut feeling.
Thanks to: Kereakos Zuras of Kereakos Inc..

10. Spend Too Much Money

The best play we didn't make was investing in a poor team, in poor marketing and in poor strategy off of vague speculations about how the world worked. Most bad businesses take the money they have and start using it all because they have invested in the 'best practices', but the best practices for one business are never the best practices for another business. When you act frugally, and test, that's when you actually know what is best for your business and what is not.
Thanks to: Danny Wong of Men's Custom Dress Shirts | BL.

11. Thank God I Didn't

Thank God I didn't listen to the naysayers and doubters that spend their lives creating road blocks instead of building bridges. Thank God I didn't listen to those that withdrew their hands instead of extending their hearts. Thank God I didn't listen to those that thought small, but used big words.

Thank goodness I followed my heart.
Thanks to: Julie Auslander of cSubs --Subscriptions Simplified.

12. Don't Sublet From Friends

Two friends took a large office suite and asked me to rent a room from them. I declined. The timing wasn’t right and, more importantly, our business relationship would clearly shift. Several months later, I decided to look for an office. I found a large suite that was even better than I had hoped for. Not going in with my friends was a good decision. I was happy and successful in my own suite, and our friendship and business relationship remained intact.
Thanks to: Flo Selfman of Words a la Mode.

13. Don't Trick the System

There's always someone dangling some short-term game-the-system carrot--some of them are downright unethical. I have avoided "flavor of the week" in favor of consistent long-term business-building--like basing my business on the "magic triangle" of honesty, integrity, and quality. Among other things, this saves lots of time undoing what shouldn't have been done in the first place.
Thanks to: Shel Horowitz of Green And Profitable.

14. I Stayed True to Myself

Recently, I had an opportunity to partner with a very reputable company to become an internet marketing consultant for local businesses. I was tempted. This company has helped me greatly with my online marketing efforts.

I turned it down because it would have taken me away from following my passion -- helping young professionals create the life and career success they want and deserve. I'm glad I did. I remained true to myself and didn't get distracted by a lucrative offer.
Thanks to: Bud Bilanich of The Common Sense Guy.

15. Horse Sense

Horses use their bodies to “know” the world around them. So, when an advertising agency that was twice our size offered to buy me out, I did my due diligence and ran the numbers, but most importantly, I listened to what my body was telling me about the opportunity... and I passed it up. Nine months later, the agency that wanted to acquire us went bankrupt.
Thanks to: Tom Porter of Business Lessons From Nature.

16. Look Before You Leap

When a new client, who was referred to me by my biggest current client, asked for a revision to a proposal for hourly fee recruiting search services, it became clear that this new client had no idea what hourly fee recruiting search services were, even though I explained it in detail in my proposal, and thought she was hiring a contingency fee employment agency.
I touched base with the referring client, who understood my position fully, and then withdrew the proposal immediately (avoiding an unhappy client and a lot of headaches).
Thanks to: Leonard Scott of Leonard Scott & Company.

17. Ask For Assistance from Family

I have always kept my Kinfolk out of my business enterprises. This minimizes any Family bickering and there are no disputes over operations, profits or vision. All my Advisors are Professional People or Associates with business experience.

Family desire to help...however, this leads to problems and situations more times than not.
Thanks to: Richard Johnson, B.Sc. of Jedi Knight Improvements, Inc.

18. Listen to Everyone

When you're starting a business, people often feel that it's their right (and even responsibility) to share their opinions (and often, demands!) with you. Luckily, we learned the lesson of "too many cooks" before we ever began our business. When we became entrepreneurs, we learned to listen, but not to try and please everyone. Knowing when to shut our ears off and do things our way paid off. Advice can be great -- but you have to know when to listen to your internal voice!
Thanks to: Elura Nanos of Lawyer Up.

19. Proper Pacing for Growth

The best thing I DIDN'T do when building my business was to try to do too much too soon. I'd seen too many entrepreneurs hire too many people too soon, lease unnecessary office space, or spend fortunes on office furniture. So, I spent only as my business demanded the spending. In some cases, I might have waited a bit too long, specifically when it came to hiring additional staff. But, at least I didn't spend myself out of business before the business ever started to grow.
Thanks to: Barry Maher of Barry Maher & Associates.

20. Partner or Leech

The best thing I didn't do was stay in a toxic partnership with a partner whose desire to be rich and important caused him to take unwise and often selfish actions. From this bad experience, I developed skills that helped me analyze future partnerships (long-term or project based) and walk away from the ones that would not be beneficial and might be harmful. The bad experience also taught me to trust my instincts not only in choosing partners, but in all of my business decisions. Two high payoff lessons learned.
Thanks to: Janet Christy of Leverage & Development, LLC.

21. Not One Cent Borrowed

My company was funded the old fashioned way: another job. I travel the country sharing how I went from fashion runways to owning a pest control company. In my glam to bugs story, many are surprised that I did not borrow money. There are many ways to fund your decision to start a company without taking out loans and going into debt before you make any money. I kept my overhead low and my day job until my bug business was paying its way. When the economy is on the brink, I have remained sane 20 yrs.
Thanks to: Genma Holmes of Holmes Pest Control.

22. On the Forefront of Victory

In 2009, associates adamantly forewarned doom and gloom for my business if I were to switch my model to utilizing social media and participate in an international collaboration. All local connections would be lost and I would soon be forgotten.

Headstrong, I continued. The opposite proved to be true. I found myself associated with forward thinking entrepreneurs and on the cutting edge of social media. This new unpredictable model proved true, bringing about many wonderful opportunities!
Thanks to: Elinor Stutz of Smooth Sale, LLC.

23. I Didn't Listen to the Experts

There is so much conflicting information and hype shared by the "gurus". In my first online business, I avoided implementing advice from the so called internet marketing gurus or purchasing any of their products that promised to make me zillions. I just simply went with what felt "good" for me to do. I went by the intuitive compass approach and my first little online business cranked in over 80K its second year in business and I created a mailing list of over 20k subscribers in 4 months.
Thanks to: Darcy Volden Hoag of Secrets Of Her Success.

24. More Baskets Keep Eggs Safe

The one thing that I did NOT do is put all of my eggs in one basket. I chose to balance working with Fortune 500 clients and a range of smaller clients even though the Fortune 500 work was more lucrative in the short term. When the economy went south, the Fortune 500 work dried up overnight and it was my smaller clients that kept me going through the downturn. Numerous calls from consultants looking for consulting or full time opportunities re-affirmed that my decision was a good one.
Thanks to: Regina Barr of Red Ladder, Inc. .

25. Don't Say 'Yes' to Everything!

From the initial opening of my business coaching service, I was presented with every kind of offer to help my business (websites, software, advertising, etc). Many of these programs were compelling and I tried a few of the more affordable ones. What I realized almost immediately was, until I had my own game plan in place, many of these offers were not right for my business. I figure I saved about $15,000 the first year by not buying into every hot deal that came along.
Thanks to: Steve Smith of OneCoach.

26. The Catch

My company dodged a "Silver Bullet" when we passed on a lease for some prime office space. In the middle of downtown, we had access to bustling city activity. The catch was signing a two year lease that would have been good for the owner but horrible for me - the leasee. We actually didn't need an office - a couple of computer upgrades more than compensated for the office space and the rent we would have been paying. In all you do, be patient and keep your eyes open for - The Catch!
Thanks to: Troy Campbell of TROYBOY INTERNATIONAL.

27. Results DO matter!

The best coaches insisted that results weren't enough to build my business. Instead, they proposed massive and expensive marketing and advertising programs. I bit on a few, but the "experts" were wrong. Their programs brought a few of the wrong kind of clients. Quickly, I fired the coaches and built my business by producing results. The referrals from happy clients brought more of the right kind of clients, who returned and referred others. Focus on results. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.
Thanks to: Thomas Taylor of Victory For Leaders.

28. We Didn't Sell Our Souls!

Just like the majority of new companies, we were operating under the assumption that receiving Angel or Venture Capital was the end all, be all and a determining factor of whether or not our company would succeed. We were desperate and when a seasoned entrepreneur offered to invest $500,000 in our company, we were chomping at the bit... that was until he told us he wanted majority ownership. It broke our hearts, but we turned down the money. Now we are profitable, and still calling the shots!
Thanks to: Debra Brown of MobilizeUs.

29. Marketing Firm - Do Research

Every business needs to get their name and brand noticed. I was being convinced by a long-time friend to use an offline marketing company he just hired. Well, I refused, and it turns out that our friend ended up spending thousands of dollars and not getting even one lead for his business. Turns out he did not do much research and did not speak to any references either. Lesson learned!
Thanks to: Josh Kotlar of Volusion Website Design.

30. Life & Business Strategist

By not listening to my critics, I have been successful in business and in life. In regards to business, many have told me to not expand my business in this terrible U.S. economy and yet I'm profiting.

However, the secret to my business and life's success comes simply through my intuition, kindness, knowledge, innovation and efforts, but most of all believing in myself despite the status quo.
Thanks to: John Simms of Simms Enterprises, LLC.

31. I Never Stopped Marketing

Persistence and perseverance are requirements for getting a business off the ground and running a going concern.

Marketing is to your business what gasoline is to your car. No Gas = No Go! Never forget what feeds your business - marketing. Even when you are successful and busy, do not succumb to the temptation to rest on your laurels and stop marketing. When the economy stinks and you need to cut back, never cut your marketing budget. Develop a plan and execute it without exception.
Thanks to: Shawn Brodof of Clarity Coaching.

32. Ya Gotta Throw Some Back In!

The best thing I didn't do was accept every client or keep a client when we clearly were not a fit. I believe I can coach 99.9% of people. However, some folks either don't want to change or want me to wave a magic wand to make it happen. Or they've done so much work already, they think they know it all....except how to get to where they want to be. Bottom line - trust your gut and never be so desperate you need to work with everyone. It will only bring misery all around!
Thanks to: Elene Cafasso of Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching.

33. When to Impress w/ Your Press

If you are a new business and you want to grow your business credibility through your press/media reviews- hide your press/media page from users on your site. In order to keep the press showing up to cover the story of you and your business, they have to feel like they are the first to get the scoop; as if they were the first to discover you. And though showing mentions might be better for business in the short term, it can be better for your brand in the long run. Credit to Morris-King & Co.
Thanks to: Robert Galinsky of New York Reality TV School.

34. Dive Right In!

The "best play I didn't make" when I started my business was not using my time and resources early on in activities that don't create business income - things like building a website and creating the perfect logo. Instead, I focused on finding clients to serve so that I could start helping people right away AND pay my bills! This allowed me to build a successful foundation for my business and create my marketing materials AFTER I got a feel for where I was going with my business!
Thanks to: Debbie Delgado of Women Living Abundantly.

35. Pioneer of Home Offices

In 1995, I started my business as an Executive Coach, Speaker and Trainer in my home office. In the early 90s, it was not considered professional to work out of your home. So, I had to keep it quiet to make sure I was viewed as a legitimate business.

Glad I did:

1. I discovered people were more comfortable meeting in restaurants--they opened up quickly.
2. Variety is important to me--change in locations worked great!
3. There were no extra expenses for office, furniture or utilities- the best thing I didn't do!
Thanks to: Kathy Condon of KC Solutions.

36. Don't get a business loan

After 4 years of driving my own van for a large company, I was told, "You're no longer needed." But, using my own van, I started my own Delivery Service!

I thought about a business loan, but if I had to risk my van, I might lose it! I decided against that loan. I handed out cards and talked to many companies who might need a Delivery Service. I bought gas with my credit cards. I got one contract, then another! I'm glad I didn't get that loan. I might still be paying it off!
Thanks to: Gary Christensen of Christensen's Delivery Service.

37. Don't Get in Over Your Head!

When my business partner and I launched our advertising/PR firm in 1985, we felt that to compete, we had to rent fancy office space right away.
But we saw the light.
We spent our first year holed up in a spare room of my partner’s house. Our equipment included a card table, two chairs, a single phone and (if you can believe it) a typewriter. We rented one of those fake office suites for client meetings and used a secretarial service.
Our advice: Don’t rush to get in over your head.
Thanks to: Ronni Barton of Barton Gilanelli & Associates.

38. Don't Be Realistic!

I met with someone to establish goals for my business and they told me to be "Realistic." My goals were too BIG. Nothing about me or my brand is average and nothing about my goals are either. I decided that I was too big for their advice. If you are in business for yourself, you only have one option; set BIG, Unrealistic, Pie in the Sky goals. The only result a realistic goal provides is mediocrity. It's your business; be as unrealistic as possible.
Thanks to: Dr. Donna Thomas-Rodgers of The Power Starters.

39. Work First, Brand After...

I launched as an Organizer and postponed the branding process until I had amassed enough client engagements to determine what and who I really wanted to work with. I had a business name, but am now - 3 years later, spending money on the entire branding process: marketing, new logo, website, and tiered pricing aimed at my ideal clients. I've grown organically and have been able to fund my re-launch. I now have enough experience to know what I DON'T want, rather than be desperate to attain any business.
Thanks to: Cena Block of Sane Spaces.

40. Lease, Don't Buy

And I'm not talking office equipment. As a start-up, I was eager to hire a full-time CMO to assist with core marketing functions and to serve as my trusted right-hand advisor. In the end, I determined the smarter approach was a team of eager and accountable consultants. This team provided innovation and a diverse set of ideas that brought me to the right marketing mix--something I would have missed with that one dedicated resource. The takeaway: pay-as-you-go still gets you great talent.
Thanks to: Sherrie Madia of Author, S.E.R.I.A.L.PRENEURSHIP.

41. Walking Away From a Radio Hit

I'm doing it right now. I'm a full-time Singer/Songwriter, and was recently tapped to sing on a Country single. It had a bit of backing (sorely needed), but the audiences for the two different styles have vastly different relationships with music (dancing vs. active listening).

I can change my image (and target audience), and I may have to at some point, but for now, I'm choosing the more difficult (but rewarding) "artistic" path.

I'll let you know how it turns out!
Thanks to: Tony Barker of TonyBarkerMusic.com.

Was there something that you didn’t do that paid off in your business? What was the best “play” that you didn’t make? If you have one, please share it below. As always, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this article!

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth