By Daniel Steyskal, Trapezoid Business Services
A business owner can't run a successful business on their own, and a failing business requires even more help. Unfortunately, logical fallacies, an inability to accept something is wrong, or sheer lack of knowledge will keep the owner of a failing business from identifying the fatal flaws which are doing the business in.
One doesn't start a business to listen to other people’s advice but failing to do so can cause a successful business to decline or, worse yet, seal the fate of a struggling business. To have a less myopic view, a small business owner must follow four simple, advice-based rules.
Ever look at a product on Amazon and see 5/5 stars? That happens because there are only three reviews or they are specifically curated to remove any negative feedback.
This is not real.
Beyond people who can never be satisfied, there will always be a time when some error creates a bad retail or hospitality experience. Too often, business owners want to react to such negative feedback, especially when it is presented in a really nasty way, but it is better to treat this as an opportunity to learn and improve.
It's better to turn around a negative review (and truthfully the best way to create customer who is a zealous advocate for your business is to listen to them) than try to deny or attack it. Modern tools such as Survey Monkey (have a link or QR code on a receipt to leave anonymous feedback), Yelp (so long as you don't give them any money this can be a decent tool) and even Google Reviews are free and easy ways to collect such information.
Asking for feedback face to face can be helpful, but too often customers will feel embarrassed to give frank feedback, especially if it is negative.
No one wants to upset the boss, so this is a particularly difficult way to get honest information. Asking directly may not yield honest data, a suggestion box looks more like a trap, and a business with only a few employees cannot truly guarantee the anonymity of a digital survey (Again Survey Monkey is a great FREE tool!).
In this situation, a third party is needed; someone who can really communicate that they are looking for honest, direct feedback to help the business. While a business solutions consultant is a great fit (I've done countless feedback surveys to identify problems and solutions and will provide a free template to anyone who asks), a close friend, a supplier, or even a local community or religious leader is a great choice. Just be ready to hear some negatives from people who would never say such things to your face.
Our partners share in our victories and defeats and a good partner will be looking out for your best interests. They intimately know your working style and what makes a day go well or poorly so this person will have an intimate understanding of how the business operation is affecting you.
You're not afraid of criticism for your personal faults, so why be afraid of feedback on something that affects you both? Personally, this has been a huge boon to me as my partner knew as soon as I asked which clients were problematic. This let me really see that any revenue I gained was severely outweighed by the grief they brought to my life.
On a solemn note, this is also the person who is the best first person to ask, “Should I shut down?” Your destinies are intertwined, and a good partner will be the first person to support you through tough times and to start a new endeavor.
Like a romantic partner, your success is bringing success to those who sell you products. While any advice should be scrutinized, they know who is doing well and who isn't and have a direct incentive to ensure you are their best customer. Even in good times ask:
Suppliers work with a myriad of businesses, successful and struggling, and are a wealth of knowledge of what works and what doesn't. Just be sure to remember who takes care of you.
Listening to feedback and taking good advice will never be a bad idea. Customers, employees, partners, and suppliers who are listened to will be more engaged with a business and invested in its success. The seemingly infinite responsibilities of a business owner can bog one down but keeping open ears and an open mind can never hurt.
Just be wary when advise or feedback comes with a pitch to sell you something.
About The Author
Trapezoid Business Services is solely owned and operated by Daniel Steyskal. Daniel has been a POS provider and business solutions consultant since 2008 working with small to midsized businesses and national franchises. When he's not making the impossible possible for his clients, Daniel enjoys cooking, gaming, and volunteering in his community. Find out more at www.tpzbusiness.com.