Entrepreneurs should be willing to listen to what others have to say before making executive decisions.
Do you know everything there is to know about your business? Your knee-jerk reaction might be to say yes. You created it, after all. You know your mission, you know your prices, you know your profit margin…
But wait, what if you don’t know everything?
As entrepreneurs, we can sometimes get so wrapped up in the fact that our businesses are ours that we put up our defenses and refuse advice.
This is a big mistake.
The advice we’re hastily turning down might turn out to be invaluable. And when we turn it down, we may be unknowingly sabotaging our businesses.
No, nobody can give us a standard formula for success in business. But by listening to what others have to say, we can play around with different variables we may not have thought of before.
I’ve learned that—sometimes—sitting back, shutting up, setting my pride aside, and listening to what key people have to say can be a tremendous help to my business.
6 People You Need In Business
Ever heard the song “My Way” by Frank Sinatra? Well, 35% of small business owners said they’d choose it as their theme song.
Here’s a little snippet from Sinatra’s “My Way”:
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
Sound like someone you know (hint, you)? I don’t know about you, but I can see why this song resonates with so many business owners.
And although it is fantastic, claiming it as your theme song doesn’t mean you have to close yourself off to learning from others.
Do things your way … after you’ve heard out all of your options.
Listening to what others have to say can help you:
- Learn something
- Form strong relationships
- Avoid common pitfalls
- Be receptive to constructive criticism
- Come up with innovative ideas
I like to think of it like this: small business ownership isn’t boxing. So, lower your gloves and let these six people teach you a thing or two about your business.
Let’s look internally first. Your employees are great resources for teaching you some things about your business you may not have realized or thought of.
Many employers think that they are the ones teaching their employees. And while this is true, you can also stand to learn a thing or two from your fellow co-workers.
As a small business owner, you likely handle a lot of big picture things. And while you may be familiar with the details, you don’t know everything (unless you’re a micromanager, which is a whole other story).
Employees are in the trenches day in and day out, dealing directly with customers, coming up with new processes, and researching competitors. Because of that, they likely see things in a different light.
For example, employees who deal with customers know their pain points. They can also see trends in customer satisfaction, making it easy for them to teach you which offerings to keep, which to tweak, and which to pitch.
Your marketing employees can teach you about trends in the market, new campaign ideas, and give you conversion metrics so you know what’s working.
And, let’s not forget about employees who handle accounting responsibilities, like bookkeeping and financial reporting. These employees can catch changes in incoming and outgoing money, which is critical for business success.
You get the picture. Your employees are in their positions for a reason, and paying attention to the things they tell you is essential.
If an employee says something isn’t working, don’t get defensive. Put your gloves down, hear them out, and collaborate to come up with a solution.
Customers are some of your greatest teachers in business. They can show you what does and doesn’t work. And, their advice can inspire you to make healthy changes in your company.
To get the most out of what your customers have to say, you have to be receptive to their comments, especially when they’re negative.
Some customers will have a tactful way of putting things they aren’t satisfied with. Some won’t. You might see some of your customers come at you with teeth bared. But before you get defensive, remember that everyone has a different way of teaching.
When it comes to your customers, you just have to take the good with the bad. Cut through the unnecessary negativity, keep calm, and appreciate the insight they give.
You don’t have to wait for your customers to come to you. Ask them to share their experiences with you via email, online review sites, social media, or over the phone. Take what they say into consideration. Find out what the biggest areas of praise and frustration are. Look at the most common pain points to prioritize changes.
More than likely, your business isn’t the first your investors have invested in. Seasoned investors know what they’re doing when it comes to selecting companies for investments. As a result, they can be an invaluable resource.
Investors can mentor you, provide insight into your finances, and help you connect with other important types of people, like small business lawyers or other investors.
They’ve seen similar themes in what unsuccessful businesses do (e.g., expand too quickly) and what businesses can do to find success. Pay attention to your investors’ suggestions and take them into consideration. Remember, they need your business to succeed so they can make money off their investment.
Like it or not, your competitors can teach you some key things about your own business.
Yes, you have to be willing to pave the way to innovation in your industry. And no, you can’t do that if you’re constantly looking at your competitors to teach you.
However, there are plenty of things you can learn from your competitors without copying them. I repeat: without copying them.
By looking at your competitors, you can:
- Find out how the market is doing
- See whether your small business pricing strategy is too high
- Identify your unique value proposition
- Avoid getting complacent
- Gain insight into new trends and whether you’re falling behind them
- Learn what does and doesn’t work for them and how it relates to you
You might even decide to establish yourself as a friendly competitor so you can learn from veteran business owners. I did that when I was starting out and had a great relationship with a couple of my competitors. If you decide to form a friendly relationship with your competitors, make sure they’re willing to, too.
5. Business Mentors
Find yourself someone who’s been in your shoes. Look at experienced business owners in your community. Check out online advice (e.g., articles or videos) from veteran entrepreneurs on the other side of the country.
Business mentors can teach you a lot—if you’re open to learning from someone whose experience is chock-full of relatable lessons.
Other business owners can share some tricks of the trade (or business hacks, to keep my lingo trendy) they’ve learned from trial and error. Business mentors can teach you things like:
- Choosing and using must-have tools (e.g., software and systems)
- Handling economic downturns
- Turning around a failing startup
- Marketing strategies that work
6. Family And Friends
And last but not least, I can’t forget to talk about the importance of letting your family and friends teach you about business. Even if they have zero business experience, they can teach you critical things about your venture.
If you want your business to work, you need to work. That means you need to take care of yourself. And who better to tell you when you’re working too hard than the people you love?
Your family and friends can also help you see things from different angles. They have an external viewpoint and can point things out that you might have otherwise overlooked.