Entrepreneurs and small business owners — and, in fact, even leaders at midsize and large companies — tend to suffer from the same problem: they want to be in control of all the decisions at their company. Bosses are often under the impression that they reached the point they’re at today due to their excellent decision-making skills. Whereas this may be true to an extent, if you only ever consider your own perspective, you’ll miss out on some great ideas and solutions.
The Advantages of Listening to Others
Actively seeking support from people who think differently than you brings fresh energy to the issues you’re facing. This applies to product design, company operations, and just about everything else that involves any amount of decision making. There are several benefits to this.
1. Become More Objective
The most important benefit of receiving outside perspectives is that they bring you closer to objectivity. It’s easy to create an echo chamber if you only ever listen to your partners and keep making decisions as you’ve always done. Long term, this could put the survival of your business at risk.
2. Reassess Your Point of View
There may be things you take for granted as true — when they’re actually just your opinions. Someone challenging those beliefs can open up a world of possibilities. For instance, you could receive a new idea about how to perform a particular business operation. This may mean you need to slow down and it will feel clunky at first. With time, though, you may find your business is much more efficient.
3. Break Old Habits
If the majority of your employees have been with your company since the beginning, you may have developed habits that you never even consider changing — but they may not be optimal for your business. Bringing in an outside perspective can mix things up and push you to take risks. Whereas some ideas may not work out, others could have big payoffs.
4. Benefit from Experience
Even if you’ve worked for many years in your field, your own experience is going to be limited. After all, there’s only so much one person can live. Plus, experience from outside your niche can bring some of the most creative solutions. People who have worked for a variety of companies (perhaps even in different industries) may have actionable advice and solutions based on what they’ve seen work well in the past.
5. Develop Flexibility
When your business becomes rigid and stuck in its ways, it is difficult to respond to new challenges and to take advantage of new opportunities. Forcing yourself to try something new pushes you out of your comfort zone and requires you to become flexible.
6. Create Leaders
You may have employees already in your company who have novel ideas, but they may be too afraid to speak against the status quo. Actively asking employees for their opinions lets them know that you do want to hear from them. This is a great way to fully utilize the potential of the talent you already have and create new leaders within your business.
7. Focus on What Matters
When you’re running a business, it’s easy to lose sight of what actually matters and become too wrapped up in day-to-day activities. Taking a step back and asking others their thoughts will allow you to see everything in a new light. You may realize that you’ve been directing too much of your attention to unimportant aspects of business while neglecting something critical.
8. Reach New Audiences
You may be unwittingly alienating potential customers because of the actions you are taking. Outside perspectives can help you become aware of this and show you how to change.
9. Expand into Foreign Markets
Another way to connect with new customers is to expand into foreign markets. As well as language differences, there are cultural distinctions that you need to understand. Collaborating with professionals from diverse backgrounds can help you understand these differences. Plus, it can ensure you communicate your message in a way that resonates with users and avoids misunderstandings.
Where to Gain a Fresh Perspective
The next step is to figure out where to find these fresh perspectives. Even if your startup is small, you can bring outside counsel on board — either formally or informally — in multiple ways.
Friends and Relatives
An easy place to turn is to friends and family. You’re likely sharing stories of your business journey, struggles, and achievements, which means they have plenty of information already. Ask for their input — you may find they are excited to come up with ideas to help you.
Bear in mind, though, that talking to friends and relatives can be a good starting point only. It’s probable that they come from a similar background to you, which means their ideas may not be dissimilar from your own. Plus, they may hold you in higher regard than a more neutral third-party, which could cause them to underestimate your weaknesses.
When seeking new employees, think about how you can aim to reach a more diverse range of candidates than usual. This could include changing where you advertise the job, how you word the job post, and the way you structure the interview. By striving to create a more diverse workforce, you’ll naturally introduce new perspectives into your company.
Hiring new employees may be out of your budget or unfeasible, but you can bring fresh voices into your day-to-day work by outsourcing talent. The great thing about outsourced workers is that they are much more affordable than employees, but they still teach you to let go and delegate. This is key when experimenting with new processes and ways of doing things.
One of the most difficult things about being a small business owner is that a huge number of responsibilities fall to you — including some that may be outside your area of expertise. A business coach can serve as an objective guide, especially if you choose someone who has already handled the exact situations you are currently facing.
A business mastermind group is made up of a minimum of two entrepreneurs and meets regularly to discuss work, challenges, and ideas. You can use the other members of the group as a sounding board and you can all hold each other accountable for meeting targets. The reason why mastermind groups are so effective is that they have no direct ties to each other’s businesses and the entire relationship is built around the concept that you’ll tell each other what you honestly think.
With the wealth of data available to you, there’s no excuse to still be working off assumptions. You may have some lucky guesses, but only market research can tell you what exactly consumers want. Deciding you know best and dictating to customers what they should want rarely ends well.
Similar to market research is asking customers what they think of you. The difference is that market research tends to be most useful before the launch of a new product or service (or even an entire brand), whereas customer surveys let you know how you’re doing and where there is room for improvement.
Everyone believes that they are able to think objectively, but we all have biases that we’re unaware of. If you listen to others, you’ll hear viewpoints that you never considered. It’s easy to become accustomed to doing things in the same way for a long time without even thinking that there may be another way. The next time you face a decision — or even contemplate how you could improve upon an activity you’ve been doing for a long time — bring in some outside perspective.