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Start-Ups

How to (Gracefully) Deal with Advice as an Entrepreneur

By Townes Haas   |    September 15, 2014   |    10:13 AM

Entrepreneurs are bombarded with advice from everyone

Whether you’re a newbie entrepreneur, or a seasoned veteran of the small business world, you’ve probably interacted with plenty of people who can’t wait to dish out their latest snippets of advice. It’s truly a blessing and a curse. Sometimes, the insight is sorely needed. Fresh perspectives are important, after all.

But unsolicited, or downright awful, advice is a different beast. You don’t want to burn any bridges or hurt any feelings so you’ll have to deal with the onslaught of advice tactfully.

How can entrepreneurs distinguish good advice from bad advice?

There’s no magic way to empirically quantify whether business advice is good or bad. Annoying, right? But truthfully, you’re already equipped with a tool that’s perfectly suited for making decisions.

Your gut.

Even if a successful, business-savvy mentor is doling out suggestions on how to improve your business, it’s still your business. You know what’s best for your company – the direction you want to take, your goals, the financial reality, how many resources you have available, and the list continues.

Even if the advice you’re getting is great, it may not be great for you, which is completely okay. You might not get things perfect every day, either. But if you follow your instincts and do make a mistake you’ll learn some invaluable lessons anyway.

How to let the advice-giver down easy if you don’t use their well-intentioned guidance

A majority of the time we wind up in interpersonal showdowns because we try to avoid the inevitable, or we don’t speak up. As an entrepreneur you run the show with your business and there’s no rule that says you have to try out every single bit of advice you’re given.

If you’re being blasted with advice and you need a way to gracefully handle it think about these three points before responding:

Figure out the origin of the advice. Is the person really just trying to help, or is there an ulterior motive at play? Sometimes people just want to feel like they have valid ideas. If you’re okay with some ego stroking, that could be helpful. Saying “That’s an interesting idea, I’ll definitely think about it” and then carefully changing the subject is another option. There’s no need to be a jerk, but stand strong.

If you need to draw boundaries with a person be polite and firm. Try something like “Thanks for the advice, but my business is going really well.”

If the advice keeps on coming, you can try your best to ignore it. If that doesn’t sound ideal, saying “Thanks a lot, but I’ve got everything under control – I’m actually already testing out a solution” is one way to nonchalantly put an end to the comments.

What’s the best way to, gracefully, deal with all of this business advice?

Okay, so sometimes entrepreneurs can’t just ignore input from mentors, business contacts, or clients. Even though it is your business, there are certain relationships that require more finesse, and ignoring the person or choosing a purposefully vague response could have “political” ramifications in your career.

Always consider the consequences, but remember that your instincts are usually the perfect resource for solving these types of problems. Try out some of the rebuttals that have been outlined here, or prepare your own arsenal of responses to deploy in the future.