How to Politely Deal With Unsolicited Business Advice

unsolicited business advice

When you start a business, suddenly everyone feels the need to offer unsolicited business advice. Whether you ask for it or not, many people will take it upon themselves to tell you how to run your business.

So what is the best way to handle this onslaught? To find out, we asked a panel of 10 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following:

“What’s your best tip for dealing with unsolicited business advice about your startup from family, friends, or anyone else?”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Take It in Stride

“In my experience, most unsolicited business advice comes from people who genuinely care. They want what’s best for you, and they think their cautionary tales (even when you know the advice to be misguided) can help you avoid missteps. Whenever possible, just graciously say “thank you” and move on. This lets those who care feel like they are participating in your success and helping you on your journey.” ~ Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

2. Be Polite and Don’t Argue

“When you own your own company, you’ll get a lot of advice from people who have no experience! It’s easy to get defensive and get into a long battle about why you’re right and they’re wrong. Instead, just politely steer the conversation to a new topic. There’s no reason to waste your time arguing and potentially damage the relationship with a friend.” ~ Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

3. Listen, Digest and Let It Go

“It’s important to be a gracious listener. Take in what they have to say because it could be valuable. Assess whether or not it fits with your values and goals. If not, let it go. If it does, take it and act. Don’t allow all advice to persuade you, but listen and make that determination afterwards.” ~ Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

4. Remember That All Advice Is Useful

“All advice is useful. I especially value suggestions from those who think differently than I do. Remember that you don’t have all the answers. Whether or not you choose to act on the advice that’s extended to you, my philosophy is that any thoughtful commentary is interesting to consider.” ~ David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

5. Listen to All of It, Take None of It

“Everyone (including ourselves) colors their advice with their own biases and experiences. Most people mean well. Listen to them. Appreciate their time. Don’t take their advice.” ~ Patrick Vlaskovits, The Lean Entrepreneur

6. Sift, Extract and Refocus

“Learn the art of sifting and extracting. Sift through the terrible advice, extract the pearls of wisdom that are hidden among the junk and then refocus on solving your customer’s problems. You are going to get lots of advice along the way, some of it great, some of it bad. But learning to listen and extract the wisdom — even from enemies — is a powerful skill.” ~ Seth Talbott, CEO and Startup Advisor

7. Listen and Thank Them

“Remember that family and friends only give you advice because they care and want to help you. My tactic is to simply listen to the advice that others have to offer and thank them for it. You’re not obligated to implement it and chances are that your friends and family don’t expect you to, but they do want to be heard and appreciated.” ~ Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc

8. Channel It Into an Opportunity

“I love getting unsolicited business advice from family, friends, or anyone. I don’t always like what they say, but it usually means they can become a customer, or it gives me the chance to tell them to put money where their mouth is. I listen, I smile, I say thank you. It will open up opportunities with them down the road.” ~ Alex Chamberlain, EZFingerPrints

9. Identify the Deeper Issue

“I’ve found that when one stranger offers a piece of feedback, it may or may not be anything worth remembering. But if I’ve heard five people tell me the same thing, regardless of their experience level or outside knowledge, it’s probably hinting at some opportunity or deeper issue that’s worth understanding. I’ve found that when one stranger offers a piece of feedback, it may or may not be worth listening to.” ~ Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

10. Smile and Nod

“I like that people feel they can share their opinions and advice with me. There are, of course, times that it’s not relevant. For those moments, I’ve adopted the smile graciously and nod approach. Arguing over unsolicited business advice is not helpful and can seem disrespectful, so why not just smile and nod?” ~ Benish Shah, Before the Label

Dog Photo via Shutterstock

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The Young Entrepreneur Council


The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

4 Reactions

  1. Thanks for the tips. I will be adopting some of them, especially listening and saying thank you, and smiling/nodding.

    I reckon some of these tips can come in handy for other situations of the non-business kind too :-).

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