Taking Advice

By Christina Suter on Feb 07, 2015 at 12:40 PM in Business Issues

Taking Advice

As young business owners, we can either be eager to hear from others or we may be defensive at the very thought of someone offering advice.

One of my first businesses, years ago, was the owner of space that I rented out to conscious-minded and spiritual teachers. I didn’t charge them rent; I ran the business by donation. My trusted mentor and advisor at the time told me one day that I couldn’t run my business on donations as a business model, if I wanted the business to work. It took me two days to process that bit of advice and to realize if I was doing what I’d set out to do. I decided that I needed my vision to keep my business going and about two years later I figured out he was right. By that time though, I didn’t care. It didn’t feel like I’d lost out on anything, because at the end of running that business I knew that my vision is what that business was about. And in that time I had the opportunity to speak to about 200 spiritual teachers, and I received a lot of advice from them and others.

Feedback & Advice

Many people will offer their opinions, advice, and heartfelt feedback about your business. A customer may recommend you change the paint color, add a wall, or in my specific case, build in a front desk. The feedback was valid and I certainly understood where they were coming from with their suggestion. However, that customer didn’t understand that I wanted my rental space to remain open to counselors, yoga instructors, musical performers, etc. A desk would have kept me from being able to offer that space to that variety of people. So while I appreciated their help, it didn’t line up with my business’ vision.

You may have a customer that suggests that you open earlier or stay open later, and as the owner you know right away that doesn’t or won’t work for you. After all, why and how could you pay staff for the extra hours, just to accommodate one customer?

Employees too offer suggestions, but their perspective one from their job, and what would work for them. You are the person responsible for the vision and the business, and it’s not their job to keep your vision in mind. So when you take into account the advice or feedback of a customer or employee, be aware of their biases, and don’t make promises or make offer. Your response should just be thank you, and you will take what they’ve said into consideration.

Friends will also offer their advice, and they are more interested in helping you fulfill your vision more than an employee or customer. But, a friend may not understand the business or the industry, so keep that in mind.

Proceed with Direction

Wait until you have continuity before you move forward. As a small business owner, it’s our job to protect the vision AND listen to feedback. Drop the jadedness or the shield and be open to feedback, but filter what you receive and act only when you've heard the same thing multiple times.

My advice to every entrepreneur is to find a mentor, one who hears you out, understands your vision, and who has more experience than you. Create a team to help you go at it. Get a SCORE coach, or get in touch with me, I'd be more than happy to be your small business coach.