You hear a lot of conventional wisdom as a small business owner. It typically comes from people trying to give you advice on how to be successful. This expert or that author tells you what they know to be true, which is the conventional wisdom aggregated in their study of that little sliver of the world.

I offer small business advice here a few days a week. I add small business ideas and tips in a weekly email newsletter as well. A lot of that advice is my own version of conventional wisdom. For instance, I know from working with dozens of brands that if you offer prospects an outstanding piece of content, they’ll give you their email address. You can then market your thing to them in a more 1:1 way via email.

But that doesn’t mean every business should do that exact thing. It’s just what conventional wisdom tells me.

I’m a firm believer that conventional wisdom should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, if everyone follows the conventional wisdom, then who is going to stand out from the crowd? No one.

That’s not to say you should always ignore conventional wisdom. Sometimes we should learn from those who have tried before us. But as small business owners, we need to develop a superior skill in knowing what to learn from and what to ignore.

My litmus test is to simply ask, “Can I achieve the same result another way without negative repercussions?” If the answer is “yes” then I know that’s a piece of conventional wisdom I can ignore if I like. I don’t always ignore it, but it helps me decipher what to hold on to.

Jason Falls - Marketing Keynote Speaker - IBM Amplify

Take public speaking, for instance. I’ve hand the good fortune and honor to be taught a lot of best practices and techniques by my friend Tamsen Webster. She specializes in helping people become outstanding public speakers. Learning from her is always a pleasure.

But if Tamsen were to critique one of my speaking performances she would probably produce the adult version of the bled-on term paper. I don’t follow all of her processes and steps to success. It’s not because I don’t believe they’ll work — I know they will. It’s because my process and techniques make my performances uniquely me. Too much preparation, polish and professionalism and the audience won’t believe me. Because those aren’t in alignment with my personality.

Conventional wisdom says I should follow her script for success. Conventional wisdom is that you should follow mine. But you also have to account for blazing your own trail, working the process your way and finding what works for your business. So don’t be afraid to not follow directions now and then. Just make sure you have your own litmus test to know when to and when to not.

Photo by Jennifer Faulk.

Scroll to Top