If you’re running a one-person show, you’ll probably find yourself a bit stuck from time to time — yearning for change and growth, but not quite sure what to do about it.
One way to “shake things up” is to reach out to others for support, to process and seek advice until you get clear about your next right move. You might hire a coach or creative professionals; organize a group of colleagues to mastermind with; or participate in online communities to ask for feedback.
All of these things are great. Do them. Every business owner should. It’s smart to get a fresh perspectives on how to solve business problems.
But: when we come to these situations with an underlying fear or insecurity (as is often the case) and look to the outside world to make us feel better, we run the risk of taking advice that doesn’t serve us.
Taking an outsider’s perspective into consideration is super, so long as you remain the “CEO of YOU.”
Web communities, blogs, and the plethora of courses offered online these days are all wonderful sources of inspiration and knowledge for entrepreneurs. I mean, you could really get lost out there. Everyone will have an opinion about what you should do. Lots of people will have a solution to sell you, too.
But your competitors don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.
The authority blogger shares their formula for their website or traffic acquisition that worked for them, but it might not work for you.
Even the good advice? Doesn’t mean you should take it. For every problem there’s more than one solution.
I think part of the digital overwhelm we all feel is that we’re bombarded with advice at every turn – everybody is an authority – but are they? Really? Just because somebody wrote a blog post about a thing, doesn’t necessarily make them an expert on a thing.
As you process all of the advice you’re taking in, be true to yourself. Creating a personal brand means YOU must do YOU. It’s a very hard thing to do, it requires a lot of courage. But I’m here to tell ya, you are more powerful than you know.
Does it align with who you are? Does it align with your core values?
Only you know. Does it feel right? Is it sustainable? (Is it something you can follow through with?)
Here’s an example. Recently I had a conversation with one of my mastermind buddies. She’s a very accomplished designer looking to change her career and build an online brand for her own physical products. She sought advice from another designer who had taken a similar path, and asked her some very smart questions:
- What is the biggest lesson you learned that you didn’t expect?
- What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
The response went something like this:
“First of all, I never made any money with this project. The biggest thing I learned is that people can be really difficult and never satisfied, so don’t be too generous with your return/exchange policy, be firm about it.”
She forwarded this to me and asked me to help her put a return/exchange policy on her website so she wouldn’t have to deal with nasty customers.
“I’d encourage you not to be too strict with your return/exchange policy. Remember how much time and money you’ll invest getting new customers, and that keeping an existing one happy is 20 times cheaper. How much would it cost you to replace an item damaged in the mail? A few dollars? And please don’t view your customers as enemies. Even if they’re difficult, you should view them as potential ambassadors for your brand. Be Nordstrom. Provide the kind of great customer service to unhappy customers that will turn the situation around and make them raving fans. “
My friend was faced with two conflicting pieces of advice, both valid. Of course I think one is better than the other, but it’s up to her to decide what aligns with who she is and what she wants her business to be about.
Have they achieved success in this area?
In the above example, the phrase, “I never made any money with this project” immediately raised an eyebrow for me. (You know what I’m sayin’?)
I once received some very harsh criticism about some ideas I had for my business. She felt strongly I should do it the way she’s approaching things. But — there’s no gentle way to say this — her approach wasn’t working for her, she was really struggling with her business. She was armed with just enough information from books and courses to be dangerous. I’m not saying the advice wasn’t valid, but when somebody tells you there’s one secret formula for anything — and most especially if they haven’t implemented that formula and achieved massive success — it’s (pardon my French) bullshit.
It is always wiser to get advice from people who have already achieved what you want to achieve. And even then, stay true to yourself.
Do they have an intimate knowledge of you, and your customer?
If not, use caution. Listen, everybody has an opinion and people love to give them. I’m a designer, so I pay attention to conversations where people are asking for feedback about their brand or their websites. Some advice is super, and a lot of it is crap. “I love it!” means nothing unless it’s coming from your customer.
Are you looking for constructive feedback or validation for your great ideas?
I witness this one a lot, too, it’s the other side of the coin: “I appreciate your feedback, but I really like this logo/website/about page copy/etc. I created for myself so I’m going to keep it the way it is.”
Even the best designers in the world get it wrong sometimes. Talented copywriters have their off days. Most successful business people probably have a story about how they failed at something at one point.
Clinging to your ideas because you want to be “right” will only hurt your business. That’s your ego playing tricks. What matters is a successful outcome, and to get there we have to be flexible, curious, ask questions, experiment, test, and be open to being wrong. When we can see that we’ve made a mistake and can simply say, “haha yeah, that was a horrible idea, I’m going to work on that”, then we can make real progress.
Our “mistakes” and “failures” have tremendous value if we learn from them, so tell your ego to take a hike and keep going!