9 Pesky Business Myths That Make Entrepreneurs Fail

by Corey Pemberton 9 Minutes

Entrepreneurship is a different path for everyone, so it’s amazing how “conventional wisdom” has emerged.

You’re supposed to understand – and follow – these unwritten rules if you want to succeed. Regardless of your unique situation or industry.

A lot of entrepreneurs try to do exactly that. They follow all the conventional advice that has been pounded into their brains countless times…

Then they wonder where everything went wrong, and why their business is still struggling.

It doesn’t have to be like this!

A lot of this conventional wisdom is just flat out wrong. The sooner you can spot the business myths holding you back, the sooner you can stop buying into them and take charge of your success.

The Danger of Conventional Wisdom

A lot of conventional wisdom about entrepreneurship is nothing more than rubbish that has been repeated to the point of becoming cliche.

It spreads the same way other well-meaning, but ultimately misguided, advice does. Remember when everyone used to say eggs and butter were bad? Now they’re recognized as legitimate options for better health.

The problem: people who don’t have direct experience with something hear others saying something and end up repeating it themselves. They also see idealized visions of entrepreneurship – movie stars portraying people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg – and assume they match reality.

It’s easy to end up with a bunch of platitudes in your head. If you let them guide your business decisions, you make it harder to succeed.

Do Any of These Myths Sound Familiar?

It’s time to start questioning conventional wisdom about what it takes to become an entrepreneur.

Let’s take a critical look at some of the popular advice you’ve heard and see if it holds up. Here are 9 of the most dangerous business myths:

1. You’re the Boss

Image credit: Unsplash

“That’s so cool. You get to be your own boss!”

I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard this after telling someone I run my own business. And I totally get it. The idea of setting your own hours, of working on whatever you want and answering to no one, is definitely appealing.

But reality just doesn’t work like that. There’s always a boss. And that boss is always someone other than yourself.

When you work a 9 to 5, it’s easy to recognize your boss. They have a certain title and tell you what to do. Running your own business, sometimes it’s a bit harder to spot them.

You might not hear from them constantly or have them hovering over your desk, but your customers and clients run the show. Their feedback, trust, and financial investment makes everything possible. If you stop answering to them and do whatever you’d like, you make success nearly impossible!

2. The Idea Is the Only Thing That Matters

Image credit: congerdesign

A lot of would-be entrepreneurs are searching desperately for the next Big Idea. They think they can’t get into business without the next iPhone or Google search engine in hand. The flip side to this: they also think that once they have that great idea, everything will just fall into place.

It would rock if you dreamed up something as revolutionary as Uber or Apple. But you don’t have to. Great execution trumps a great idea every time.

Some of the most profitable businesses in the world are dead simple. Pizza delivery chains like Domino’s do billions of dollars a year in revenue. Home Depot brought in almost $90 billion last year selling hardware and home supplies!

These businesses don’t thrive because their ideas are revolutionary; they thrive because they have great execution.

Instead of torturing your brain trying to come up with a perfect product, figure out what you can do to improve your day to day. How can you improve your work habits? Better manage your time? Cut expenses?

Great execution can turn a decent (but not earthshaking idea) into a monster success.

3. A Quality Product Is All It Takes to Succeed

Image credit: PatternPictures

Some entrepreneurs never get off the ground because they spend years – and all their savings – trying to build the perfect product or service.

These people have the idea that, if they can deliver the highest quality, their customers will recognize it immediately and flock to them. They’ll beat down their doors just to get the “better mousetrap” Emerson spoke of.

The game has changed. There’s more competition online than ever before. The people you’re trying to reach are overwhelmed and hopelessly distracted. You can’t expect them to dig through all the other options before stumbling upon your perfect product.

A quality product is necessary, but not sufficient, for success. You also have to dedicate a chunk of your day to promoting your brand. If you’re squeamish about the process, learn how to sell.

4. You Have to Take Huge Risks

Image credit: bungeeinternational0

The media loves stories of entrepreneurs who put it all on the line to get their businesses to take off. You know the story. A single mother, tired of struggling to make ends meet, maxes out the credit cards to design her product before it gets picked up by QVC. Yes, I just described the plot of the movie Joy.

It’s easy to assume that starting a business needs to be super risky, but it absolutely doesn’t. With just a few hundred dollars (or even less) and a few hours after work each day, you can start a side hustle and turn it into a business. No venture capital funding needed.

Yes, there will be hard times and your income will fluctuate. But if you prepare for these things and keep your expenses low, you’ll get through them just fine. You can always offer services, which are fast ways to bring in income, while you develop a product line.

Working online offers so many cool ways to mitigate risk. You can use free content marketing instead of pouring your budget into paid ads. You can work from home instead of renting a fancy office. You can nurture leads through email instead of lengthy phone conversations. The possibilities are endless.

5. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Image credit: geralt

I’m a big fan of Tim Ferriss. As much as I love how he breaks down concepts and streamlines productivity, I absolutely loathe the “life hacks” movement his books have spawned.

Everywhere you look there’s someone with a quick hack to make you happier, healthier, and more productive. The results they promise are incredible, and the effort involved on your end is minimal. This makes them practically irresistible!

There’s nothing wrong with trying to optimize your schedule or squeeze more out of your workday. But when you take the whole life hacking, work smarter not harder thing too far, you miss the big picture.

And the big picture is this: running a business takes a ton of hard work. Especially in the beginning.

A lot of entrepreneurs beat themselves up for not working smart. But the harsh truth is that many of them aren’t putting in enough hours to gain traction. If they worked an extra hour or two each day, that might make all the difference.

Why not work harder and smarter?

Put the work in first. Then you can worry about tweaking things to succeed even more.

6. Just Do What You Love

Image credit: Mariamichelle

A lot of entrepreneurs fall into the passion trap and never crawl out.

The advice is simple: do something you love and the financial rewards will follow. The idea is that, if you love doing something, you’ll gladly put in enough time and effort to make it pay off.

This could work for you… if your passion is something that people value in the marketplace. But that doesn’t work for those of us with passions like birdwatching or sitting on a beach – things that fulfill us personally but have little value financially.

You don’t have to be passionate about your specific business. As long as you’re passionate about serving your customers and making the business work, you can become a huge success. And the coolest part is the better you get at running your business, the more passionate you’ll become.

There’s no need to pick a business you hate just because you think it’d be lucrative. Nor do you need to do something you absolutely love. If you find something that: 1) you can stand the idea of doing, and 2) is valued in the marketplace, that’s the happy medium.

7. Obsession Is a Bad Thing

Image credit: Unsplash

“Why do you work so hard?”

“What’s wrong with you? I think you’re obsessed.”

Most people will see you putting in 14-hour days and just shake their heads. They’ll wonder why don’t relax more. They’ll warn you about your poor work/life balance.

These people mean well, but sometimes we entrepreneurs should ignore them. Obsession is a dirty word to the typical professional. But it’s exactly what it takes to get your business thriving.

A lot of the concerns you’ll hear will come from people who work 9-to-5 jobs. People who have never tried to start their own businesses. Your work habits will seem strange to them because they are. Remember, successful entrepreneurs are the exception rather than the rule.

The hardest part about this is some of those concerns are probably justified. It’s not exactly healthy to pound away at a keyboard 80 hours a week. Or to blow off hanging out with friends. But sometimes becoming an entrepreneur means accepting a less than ideal work/life balance – at least for a while.

8. The Customer Is Always Right

Image credit: ArtsyBee


Absolutely not. This is one of the most dangerous business myths around.

If you start with the premise that the customer is always right, you put no limits on their possible complaints. You give them permission to be as belligerent and unreasonable as they please.

Once you give tacit approval for these people to complain and eat up your time, you’ll find yourself wasting larger and larger parts of your day dealing with the unreasonable few.

The vast majority of your customers will be honest and reasonable. But you need some guidelines in place for the few who aren’t. Otherwise you’ll spend the majority of your time serving them instead of all the other people who need your help.

Take a moment and write down what you refuse to put up with from an unreasonable customer. Do you recognize the warning signs?

It can be intimidating to let a few customers go, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need to take your business to the next level. Remember, you don’t need everyone in the world to become your customer to succeed!

9. You Have to Be First – or the Cheapest

Image credit: PublicDomainPictures

A lot of entrepreneurs refuse to create new products because they aren’t the first to market or the cheapest option available.

This kind of thinking is unreasonable, and it hamstrings your chances of success. Pressuring yourself to create a completely original idea is unrealistic. And for most of us, offering bargain prices isn’t sustainable.

You can have a very successful business without either of those things. Think how many household names weren’t the cheapest or first. The iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone – but its touchscreen made it remarkable. Google wasn’t the first online search engine; it was just better.

With the pressure to be the first or cheapest lifted, you’ll free yourself to explore new products or services. You can combine, improve, and/or put your own spin on something – even in highly-competitive markets. There’s always a hole in the market, a sub-niche or demographic that isn’t being served.

Your Turn

It’s easy to start running a business a certain way without taking the time to question where those guiding principles came from. Unfortunately, a lot of the cliches we’ve heard over the years can do you more harm than good.

What if a few of those principles weren’t true?

It’s time to question the official narrative.

Take a few minutes to write down some of the key principles shaping your business. Then think about where they came from. Did you hear them from a mentor or trusted friend with real-world experience? Or were they just ingrained through magazines, movies, etc. as things you were “supposed” to do?

What do you think is the most dangerous business myth? Did you struggle with it personally? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Get Our $270M Client Proposal Kit (free)

by Corey Pemberton
Corey Pemberton is a freelance copywriter and blogger who helps small businesses and software startups get more traffic and conversions online. You can find him on his website or follow him on Twitter.