Get an outside set of eyes on your business.
In this post, Kevin Davies from TecKnoQuest discusses the high value of feedback about your business from an outside, impartial source.
We all like to receive positive feedback about our small businesses. Positive feedback reinforces that all your hard work was worth it and you made the right decision to "go out on your own" and be your own boss. Wonderful.
However, receiving negative feedback about your business is one of the toughest moments you will ever endure as a small business owner. It can be very upsetting and emotionally draining. But it can also be one of those moments of clarity upon which you can grow and improve. You need to seek out and seize these moments to ensure the continued growth and viability of your business.
There are many ways that you can gain useful feedback from an "outside set of eyes" for your business - some ideas as follows:
1) Hire a small business consultant. Okay, this likely sounds like a shameless plug for my services, and in many ways, it is. But more importantly, hiring someone with no ties to you or your business will often give you the most unbiased and honest evaluation of your business's strengths and weaknesses. My only caution on this is that there are lots of (self-proclaimed) "experts" out there that will swoop in, write you a report outlining a number of things that should be improved, and leave. Look for someone who will not only identify issues, but work with you and your team to develop and implement an improvement plan. Make sure that whomever you hire does more than talk the talk; make sure they can (and will) walk the walk.
2) Join a small business support group. Small business owners have many endearing characteristics - one of the strongest is their willingness to network with other small business owners. Joining a support group of other small business owners can help you to gain feedback and ideas for your business. Quite often a member of the support group (possibly referred to as a "successful non-competitor") becomes an amazing "sounding board" for your ideas, trials and tribulations. And being an active member of a small business support group gives you an opportunity to share your successes and ideas with other members of the group.
3) Appoint an advisory board for your business. Many businesses are formalizing the source of input about their operations through the appointment of an advisory board. Through my work in the educational publishing industry, I found that many successful publishers (big and small) relied on their advisory board for honest and useful feedback. These boards usually met twice a year in a formal setting; feedback from members was also sought informally throughout the year. (It is important to note that these were advisory boards - not boards of directors. As such, feedback from the advisory board is non-binding on the business, thus leading to - potentially - a source of more open and positive input.)
No matter which method you implement to get a valuable outside perspective on your business, be ready to be challenged. You should face questions about all aspects of your business - from operations to personnel to marketing, etc. Your response(s) of "that's just the way we have always done it" should be responded to with "why?" Approach feedback with an open mind - some of the feedback might sting a little but it will likely be worth the pain if it means improving and sustaining your small business.
I can be that "outside set of eyes" for your small business. Contact me for a free initial consultation - absolutely no strings attached.