By Bill Reagan (File photo)
“None of us is really as bad as we think we are on our worst days, but neither are we as good as we think we are on our best days.” That’s the assessment of one of the region’s premier CEOs speaking about the importance of executives using personal coaches to help them stay balanced and have a more objective self-assessment. His corporation engages coaches for their executives as a productivity investment.
The need for objective assessment is equally true for small business owners who might think they are the only ones experiencing problems and not meeting goals. On the other extreme, they might feel smug and sail along thinking things are rosy until they are caught off guard by an unexpected obstacle. Without some kind of external check, it becomes difficult to gauge one’s success.
Self-assessments often feel difficult. They can take a toll on our emotions, and they require a great deal of time, energy and concentration. The business world seems to shrug off the need for softer skills and often views external feedback as meddling. In our experience, small business owners who engage someone for objective feedback are making an investment in the longevity and productivity of their businesses and their personal lives.
The sharpest entrepreneurs ask lots of questions and are constantly researching better approaches. Sometimes, the best approach is to simply get feedback from others who have been in their shoes, so business owners seek advice from those who are knowledgeable and objective. Friends, family and colleagues are not always able to provide these perspectives.
Successful business owners seek opportunities to engage — formally or informally — with other entrepreneurs. Candid sharing of experiences can help entrepreneurs find solutions or new approaches. For these relationships to be beneficial, all parties need to be willing to be open and honest about their successes and challenges.
There are many opportunities for this type of engagement, including CEO roundtables, co-work spaces, industry gatherings, and targeted networking opportunities. We’ve all been to events that have been a waste of valuable time, energy and money, so knowing the other participants is key. Do your background research to make sure they are ideal matches.
Business owners may feel more comfortable approaching someone one-on-one. Good advice doesn’t have to come from someone in the same industry or area of expertise. Identify someone whose success you admire and invite them to coffee to talk about their philosophy. These informal sessions may help you see your business from a new perspective.
The Alexandria Small Business Development Center frequently helps business owners make critical connections. Whether you’re looking for objective individual guidance or opportunities to connect with other businesses, our staff has access to a large network of organizations. Contact us to find out more about what we can do for your business.
Objective feedback can be one of the most important investments in individual and business productivity and is worthy of an entrepreneur’s careful consideration.
The writer is the executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.