Success Tips

Twenty Tips For Startup Success, Part Sixteen: Question Everything

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In my previous post of the series, I discussed the importance of forming business relationships. In this entry, I’ll be talking about defying conventional wisdom.  

Conventional wisdom is useful in a number of areas of life, but when it comes to business, it can shackle us to ideas we might be better served discarding. Defying the status quo is what has allowed many of the top entrepreneurs and businesses to achieve the success that has made them famous, yet too many people still seem tied to traditional ideas when it comes to their business. Breaking away from expectations can free entrepreneurs to try new and exciting ideas that haven’t traditionally fit “inside the box” but could prove to be more successful than sticking with old ideas.


Going against the grain and rejecting the status quo can be a frightening concept. A big part of success in business is mitigating risk, and trying something that others aren’t doing would seem to be a pretty big risk given evidence of success using tried and true methods. Given that, it’s easy to see how the status quo becomes entrenched and how certain paths to success become well-worn by those following in the footsteps of those who have gone before them and succeeded using that set formula. But the established path isn’t the only path, and there are new opportunities for those willing to be bold and try something new.

The speed of technological changes means that the world around us continues to change at an exponential pace, and those changes can mean that the old methods of pursuing your company’s goals are no longer the right ones for you. The internet has changed how we connect with people, where we do business, and even how we can raise money to fund our business. Some of the new approaches can seem risky or ineffective if you’re used to convention, but all ideas were new at one point, and ideas that have the potential to help your company deserve thoughtful consideration.

A new path is also a way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Whether it’s trying to serve a section of the market you think is untapped or employing new methods or technologies to meet customer’s needs in a different way, breaking with the status quo can set you apart in a field where customers might see each company as largely similar. A new and different approach can be a step forward for your industry and could catch the attention of a customer base that was dissatisfied with the current offerings on the market but left with no better alternatives.

Even if you’re already well down the road of building your business, it’s never too late to reexamine what you’re doing and breaking with convention. If there are aspects of your company that aren’t working as well as you would like, and you have new ideas that might seem unconventional, why not try to pursue them? It might not be what everyone else does, but your business is your own ideas and vision, not others. Trying new, bold ideas can serve to energize employees and break the complacency that can overcome companies that have fallen into a routine.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in breaking from industry norms is in saying “no” when necessary to opportunities that come your way. There can be a temptation to agree to any and every proposal for partnerships or funding or other avenues to grow your business, especially before you’ve established your company. And while some might be a good fit for your company and what you want to do, you have to suss that out before you’re agreeing to something that becomes intractable.

Consider each opportunity as it comes on its merits and whether it helps you further your aims in ways that you’re comfortable with rather than feeling obligated to yourself and your employees to do something just for the sake of doing it. Involve employees and your advisors in major decisions because you should not go it alone. You might regret opportunities missed, but you cannot afford to make many of these types of mistakes early on.   

The accepted wisdom of the business world can prove useful in certain situations, but don’t become married to ideas that are ultimately someone else’s. Your business is your own, and if you have strong and definitive ideas that go against the grain, don’t be afraid to pursue them, even as others are holding to convention.

Be sure to read my next post on starting slowly with your business to avoid costly mistakes.  

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