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If you’re running a tiny business (and if you’re a human-person), from time to time you’ll find yourself a bit stuck―yearning for change and growth, or maybe you need to make an important decision (but you’re not exactly sure which direction to go). In these situations it’s natural to ask for advice, but be careful: not all advice is created equal.
As solopreneurs, we all need support―to seek advice and even just to process with other people until we get clear about our next move. We might hire a coach or a creative professional; organize a group of colleagues to mastermind with; or participate in online communities to get feedback.
All of these things are great. Do them. Every small business owner should. It’s smart to get a fresh perspective 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 (and give us the answers?), we run the risk of taking advice that doesn’t serve us.
Taking outsiders’ perspectives into consideration is great 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 digital 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 who shares their formula for how they overcame the problem you’re experiencing 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.
Part of the digital overwhelm we all feel is that we’re bombarded with advice at every turn―everybody is an expert, a ninja, a guru (but are they? Really? Is that possible?) 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. That’s a very hard thing to do and it requires a lot of courage. But I’m here to tell ya, you are more powerful than you know.
When taking advice, ask yourself: 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 in 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?
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 themselves―it’s probably 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. What I’ve observed countless times over the years is that some advice is super, and a lot of it is crap.
“I love it!” doesn’t mean a whole lot unless it’s coming from a customer, and even then, it’s still just a personal opinion and may not be the same for all your customers.
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 it the way it is so I’m going to keep it that way.”
If you find yourself doing this, stop wasting time asking for advice and just get out there with it. You’re ready. 🙂
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.