June 9, 2014

Demands vs. Detours: Standing up for your company's image starts with you

As I go about preparing to start my own business again, I've noticed that I am coming across some of the same problems I faced previously. Not with the things that may typically knock a business off track, such as getting in over your head in debt or not marketing your company properly. No, for me, and I'm sure for many other startup businesses, the issue is others trying to define your business's vision for you. There are so many people out there "giving advice" as to how you should run your business, that sometimes you end up taking a detour when you should have been plowing forward.

The truth is, your business is developed through your own sweat equity, and while it is helpful to listen to the advice of those that have come before you, your business cannot be their vision. The minute it stops being your vision, the more likely you will allow this detour to derail your dreams, and you will become more and more frustrated at your business. This is completely different than listening to the demands of your customers, because otherwise, how would your business survive. But even with them, as well-meaning as they may be, are not in your shoes. So how do you separate the "wheat from the chaff" when it comes to listening to business advice from others? Here are three ways to check:

Gut-check: You know deep down inside if the person who is talking makes some sense, or is completely off the mark. Don't compromise your brand, image, and ultimately your business, because of a supposed authority figure or so-called experts. Too many business aspirations never make it off the ground because someone else has convinced the would be entrepreneur to go a different direction, even halting their aspirations. Don't let someone else define your vision.

Fact-check: Even with credible voices providing you "expert knowledge", don't settle for just knowing what they know, find out why they know. How come one business model took off while another failed? Why did one company's ideas flop, while another's flew? The problem with living in an instant gratification society is that we have become all too accepting of a reason without actually going through the thinking process, and then are unprepared for the consequences to our business. Don't let others define your vision.

Checkmate: You are not in business to lose, so run a race you can win. Let everyone that is providing you with advice (whether solicited or unsolicited) know that you have listened to them, but be conscious about every move you are about to make. Did the person who you were about to write-off finally make sense to you? Or was the person you trusted really clueless about your issue? You and you alone have to deal with the consequences of your actions, so be mindful before putting risking too much or too little in your business. Remember, don't let others define your vision.

So now that I told you what to do, go out and do what's best for you and your business. 

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