Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

The Best Business Advice From The Last 30 Years [Infographic]

It sometimes seems like there’s more business advice popping up on shelves than there are people being born (for context, there are approximately 15,000 births an hour).

What we’ve noticed is that the best business advice tend to show up year after year. Holgar Seim at TheNextWeb aggregated the 7 most most common and enduring pieces of business from the past 30 years. We loved that list and had to give it the ReferralCandy treatment.

Here’s a summary with a fun medieval adventure, enjoy!

(If you prefer straightforward text, we have that too– right below.)

Best Business Advice Infographic

The best business advice of the last 30 years:

1. Find Your Why

The first step to take in business is to find your why, both for your company and yourself. It’ll get you on the right track and keep you there.

History has shown that companies that stay tough when things get rough (Disney, Johnson & Johnson) have a higher purpose for existence beyond chasing profits.

Your personal “why” is equally important. An experiment in which psychologist polled students on their goals in life found that those with intrinsic goals (self development, helping others) were much more fulfilled and closer to contentment then those with extrinsic goals (wealth).

People with purpose work harder and longer than people without, which leads to better outcomes.


Relevant books:

  • Start With Why – Simon Sinek
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey,
  • The Everything Store – Brad Stone,
  • The Magic of Thinking Big – David Schwartz.
  • Drive – Dan Pinker
  • Built To Last – Jim Collins


2. Make The Work Come First

After finding your why and setting your goals, you’ll have to put in the work to get there. Consciously focusing on the quality of your work over the outcome lets you acquire rare and valuable skills that’ll make you exceptional.

To become irreplaceable within your circle, find a niche to sink your expertise and passion into. This will require many hours of effort, but if you’re headed toward something you’re truly passionate about it’ll be a breeze.

People who focus on outcomes over processes get worse outcomes than people who focus on processes over work

Relevant books: 

  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Cal Newport
  • Linchpin and Purple Cow – Seth Godin
  • Mastery – Robert Greene
  • Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell


3. Plan, Do, Repeat

Getting to your goal requires planning how you’re going to work. Implement a system to organize your work. Review your plans constantly to stay on track.

As you review your plans, adapt them with what you’ve learnt along the way. Stick to your “why” and be flexible about your plans as long as you keep moving forward.

If you don’t plan, you’ll likely stay where you are. When you review your plans, you’ll learn things you missed that will help you go further.

Relevant books: 

  • Getting Things Done – David Allen
  • Built to Last – Jerry I. Porras and James C. Collins
  • The War of Art – Steven Pressfield


4. Effective > Efficient

A good chunk of recent business advice has been about lifehacking, but it’s important to note that being efficient isn’t nearly as important as being effective.

Seek to free yourself from trivial tasks (like unimportant emails) by outsourcing or removing them. Instead focus on activities that’ll lead to your goals.

There’s no point being really good at something pointless.

Relevant books: 

  • The 80/20 Principle – Richard Koch
  • The 4-Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss
  • Focus – Daniel Goleman
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey


5. Tell A Good Story

To close a sale or convince others, it’s important to tell a good story. Any idea, if expressed in an impactful and memorable way, can be unforgettable.

Frame your stories through others needs and desires to let them understand your point of view.

Helping others see your POV and win them over by evoking emotions in them.

Relevant books: 


6. Change Your Expectations Of Creativity

Like a cat, creative ideas might not come when called for. But if you stay patient and keep your doors open they might just waltz into the room and hop on your lap.

Creativity can’t be contained or controlled, it can only arrive of it’s own accord as a result of experimentation. Keep an open mind, embrace opportunities and actively look for inspiration in your experiments.

Experiment and have open mind, creativity doesn’t happen in the little box that you want it to happen

Relevant books: 

  • Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson
  • Weird Ideas That Work – Robert I. Sutton
  • Creativity Inc.– Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace


7. You’re Irrational

Business might seem like a completely rational and logical domain. But at the heart of things, business is about people… who are incredibly irrational.

Things rarely go as planned. The irrationality of others and yourself will hold you back now and them. Learn to accept irrationality as an unavoidable truth and have fun with it – you might find that it brings fun and excitement.

We are not boring business robots. We are people with feels.

Relevant books: 

  • Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
  • Fooled by Randomness – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman 



Jon Tan

My coffee expenses and my office rental are one and the same.

Terrified of mathematics and carbohydrates.