The Worst Advice I Ever Received

When a consultant told me to abandon part of my business strategy, I had to take a hard look at my priorities.

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By Lauren McGoodwin

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When you become an entrepreneur, everyone wants to give you advice. And to give these folks credit, most of that advice comes from really good intentions. These advice-givers might be your friends, family, coworkers, investors, etc., but often they're also complete strangers.

Related: How I Overcame Losing One of My Biggest Customers

When I left my fantastic recruiting job to build Career Contessa, I was once told that there was zero need for a career resource that was just for women because women were no different than men. This advice came from a woman. I won't even bother discussing that piece of advice because I think it's obvious that women do need their own career resource. In fact, 1 million women trust Career Contessa to do just that each year.

Next to that, the worst piece of advice I heard wasn't actually unsolicited -- it was from someone I was paying for advice. A consultant told me to only focus on creating revenue from advertising and forget creating career development courses or company profile subscription plans because those areas were too saturated of a market.

My first reaction was that that consultant must be right because I was paying an "expert" to tell me where my revenue opportunities were. My second thought was that I'd wasted so much time and money creating these two other revenue streams (online courses and company profile subscriptions), maybe I wasn't cut out to be an entrepreneur. Then there were the other swirling insecurities because I'd paid money just to second-guess myself.

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Was the consultant right? Maybe. When you're a revenue expert, your skill is bringing in sales quickly. So, she did give me sound advice in that regard. But, when you're building a business, you have to think long-term, too.

There is no blueprint for any job, but entrepreneurship requires that you think big constantly with the added pressure to perform financially every month because, if you don't, then other parts of your life are in jeopardy. It's not just revenue and sales -- in fact, some days, it feels more like your priorities are in a Los Angeles-style traffic jam.

In the end, I responded by not making any changes to what I was building, but I did change how I was building it. I started to embrace building things a bit slower and the fact that Career Contessa was filling a niche with its products and services. I leaned into the discomfort of knowing we wouldn't be a fit for all companies and worked on keeping the focus on the long-term. I loosened up -- admitting to myself that we needed to be flexible about our path to success without losing the vision. I also embraced that there are no quick fixes.

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I took out a journal and started writing down what type of company I wanted Career Contessa to be in one, three and five-plus years down the road. While advertising will probably always play a role in the company (there are countless brands we deeply believe in that help us achieve our goals and are a pleasure to work with), I want Career Contessa to be a comprehensive career resource that helps women build successful careers. With that vision in mind, we ultimately need to continue with our original plan -- whether it makes sense to a revenue consultant or not.

So mostly, I'd urge entrepreneurs to write down why you started and what your original vision is for your business. And when friends, families, experts, clients, etc. want to give you advice, take it, evaluate it, learn from it, then see if your path could benefit from what they said. But, never change your vision.

Lauren McGoodwin

Founder and CEO of Career Contessa

Lauren McGoodwin left the recruiting world to launch Career Contessa in 2013 to help women build successful careers via content, coaching and online education. Career Contessa now helps over 1 million women navigate their careers each year.

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