Ever had a dumb idea that one of your buddies talked you out of? Yeah, me too. Phew. Pretty serious relief when you realize how dumb the idea was and how truly excited you were about it for a while. Being a small business has loads of perks—flexibility, low overhead, general awesomeness—but one big drawback. The problem many small businesses run into is that they’re small, which means they don’t have anyone to talk about stuff with. It’s easy for bigger businesses to develop a built-in system for getting feedback, because there are more people and more levels of management where ideas naturally get discussed, vetted, shared, adjusted, etc. Develop your own system for getting feedback to provide you the perspective you need to make good business decisions and help avoid the dangers that come from our own blind spots.
Seek out the people that will be honest with you
Find a core group to give you honest feedback. How formal or informal you decide to be, get some sort of board together. Even if it’s just a monthly night with your college friends, or a eclectic mix of mentors, friends, and your grumpy uncle, you need a semi-regular meeting with a semi-regular group to bounce ideas off of. Make sure you surround yourself with people who care about your business success and will be honest with you. If you want someone to tell you you’re a genius and everything you’ve ever done or thought about doing is perfect, call your mom. If you want someone to tell you what’s working and what’s not, create a group of informal advisors and give them a call. An outside perspective is only helpful if it offers an honest, fresh look that brings to light things you may not have considered on your own.
Surround yourself with people that have the skills you lack
Seek out a beneficial relationship by looking for someone who complements you. Not “Hey, nice tie!” (that’s compliment, not complement) but fill in each other’s weaknesses. What do you do well? What do you need help with? Find someone who does what you need and who needs what you do. You don’t need to enter into a formal partnership (although that could be beneficial, depending on your individual circumstances and business goals), but working together could be valuable.