When you are starting or growing a business, you typically can’t do it all alone—even in the early stages where the first steps might be proof of concept and customer validation, which are fancy ways of saying you’re finding out if your idea is as great as you think it is and getting an idea of the demand for your idea in the market.
This may mean conducting a survey or researching the feedback that existing competitors get from their customers. However, most people in the very beginning will probably run their idea by people they know—friends, family, co-workers, mentors, etc.
Get Reliable Feedback in the Early Days
When getting early business feedback, it is important to maintain some amount of objectiveness as to the intentions of the person or source you are getting that feedback from. Many of them may be risk averse, and from their point of view, they will never support anything that rocks the boat. Others may only ever tell you what want you want to hear because they want to be supportive.
Now here is the key. You want to find those individuals that not only give you critical or negative feedback, but give you suggestions on how to refine your idea, test your ideas, and improve upon your ideas. That kind of advice is invaluable even if it is hard to hear because it is honest.
Get Insights as Your Business Grows
Later, as your business grows, you want to seek out experts and mentors who not only have knowledge and skills but also have the ability to provide positive negative feedback—feedback you need to hear.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the difference between someone that is always negative and someone who is pushing you out of your comfort zone. These are the people who are not just constantly looking for chinks in the armor, but also how to reinforce the week spots. These people will ask you follow up questions and question your assumptions.
This isn’t easy—especially because we naturally gravitate towards people who love our ideas and just get it right off the bat. But when it comes to business, you will need to know how to grow your customer base and see ahead, which means not just listening to the cheerleaders.
You do want people who will champion your business and support you, but watch out for those who do so blindly. Those types of blind yes men are very attractive, but they can lead you astray. Relying on people who tend to see things the same way can blind you from seeing market shifts and other potential problems.
Avoid the “Yes” Group
One way to avoid surrounding yourself with a yes group is to make sure you are getting feedback from people with a diversity of backgrounds and life experiences. When choosing collaborators, mentors, advisers, or board members to sit on a corporate or advisory board, make sure to choose people who see the world differently. One of the key tenants of corporate governance is that a diversity of perspectives helps to see more potential outcomes and leads to better vetting of strategies for the future of your business.
This may seem like common sense, but all too often I see that when first time entrepreneurs are getting business feedback they aren’t analyzing and evaluating the sources of this feedback. In other words they tend all the feedback with the same weight.
Following these tips can help you avoid a lot of mistakes and foresee and address issues before they happen.
About the Author
Mishty Deb is a founding partner of the Dallas law firm LaSusa & Deb, PLLC and author of the LawGirl101 blog. She is a business, real estate, finance, and energy attorney and has worked extensively in the public, non-profit, and private sectors of the legal field. You can find her on Twitter @LawGirl101Blog.