As business owners, we often receive well-meaning, but at times contradictory advice. Whether it’s our peers, our mentors, or even family members, there is no shortage of people with an opinion on how we should run our business, and sometimes, it can be overwhelming. We may often find ourselves going back and forth on a decision based on the advice of the so-called experts in our midst. Below are 4 tips that I’ve found useful over the years:
1- Start assuming positive intent – No matter how harsh feedback may sound to us, it’s important to realize that giving constructive feedback is not easy either, so you must assume the person giving it to you cares enough about you to want to see you succeed, even at the risk of upsetting the relationship in the short-term. Think of any feedback as a gift, even when it is not so pleasant.
2- Understand this person’s point of view – No single person can see everything, so it may help to try to see things from this person’s perspective first. What is their prior experience and how can it influence their advice? Is the person currently going through a similar situation as yours, and what has that been like? Is this how a customer/partner may see things as well?
3- Understand the underlying assumptions – Under which conditions does this piece of advice make the most sense? What if customers behave differently than you expect? What if costs are much higher than you expect, or competitors price more aggressively? Asking these questions often leads to a richer discussion and makes the advice more useful, even if conditions change.
4- Remember that, ultimately, you make the final call – No matter how wise and well-meaning advisors can be, at the end of the day, no one knows your business better than you, so you are the ultimate owner of your decision. Furthermore, any person you ask for advice should also understand this and respect your choices, even if he or she disagrees with them.
Giving and receiving advice is one of the most important and useful skills as a business owner, but just like any skill, it requires practice. My advice (no pun intended) is to not shy away from it, but to embrace it.
Ramon Rodriguez is the Founder/CEO of Collaborate.Biz, an online platform that helps businesses unlock new sources of revenue by matching them with compatible, strategic partners. It’s “Match.com meets LinkedIn,” but instead of helping people date, it helps businesses collaborate. Jon for Free at http://www.collaborate.biz.