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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Get Over Negative Advice When Starting a Business?

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Tue Jan 19 2021

Ask a Trainer: How Can I Get Over Negative Advice When Starting a Business?
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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Christina Danforth explains the importance of developing a filter when you’re starting your own business.

Dear Christina,

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I’ve been an in-house instructional designer for several years, but lately I’ve been thinking about starting my own business. I’m excited about this possibility, but I’m running into a problem: Everyone I talk to has an opinion about whether or not I should take this step. Some people are supportive, while others are skeptical about my chances for success. I’ll talk to one friend and decide I want to go for it, but then I’ll talk to another friend and want to give up on the idea. How can I sort through what advice is valid and what isn’t? How can I keep from getting discouraged when someone is negative about my plans?


The situation you described resonates with me. When you want to start a business, there’s so much advice and guidance out there—probably too much. I recommend developing a filter. When I began this journey, I shared my plans with colleagues, friends, family, and acquaintances. You’ll have to do that too; it’s necessary to have a lot of conversations about your mission, vision, and business model. But when you start telling people about your plans, they’re going to give you advice whether you want it or not. Your filter is about knowing the difference between helpful and supportive advice—for example, when someone is challenging you with questions that help you further define your mission or your business model versus advice that could slow you down or throw you off track. That kind of advice can make you doubt yourself or potentially even stop you from going out on your own.

My filter is good now, but I have numerous examples from both situations—advice that is supportive versus advice that’s going to point you in the wrong direction. When you’re first starting out, it can be tough to figure out the difference.

I have a particular example of when I got some advice that almost threw me off course. Of all places, it came when I went to an entrepreneurial center that catered to women at a university. The program manager there was negative about what I was setting out to do. Going to that kind of place and getting that kind of advice almost stopped me. I almost let it point me in a different direction. I had to take a step back and regroup. I went back to other conversations that I’d had with people who offered more supportive advice. I took another look at my business model. Ultimately, that advice caused me to pause, but I was able to quickly figure out that it was poor advice.

You should trust the source that you’re getting your information from. Although this entrepreneurial center had many successful businesswomen, for whatever reason, there was a mismatch between what I was proposing to do and what they were thinking.

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That’s where that filter comes in. It’s OK to regroup and not use just one data point or perspective. Talk with other folks and continue to evaluate and put a structure in place around your business model then test your business model. That’s more valuable than taking just one person’s perspective as a reason to stop everything.


Learn more from Christina about starting an e-learning business on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. Her episode will air on January 20.


If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub.

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Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

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