Despite all of it’s recent popularity, entrepreneurship is not the typical path. When you decide to go it alone, there will always be people that will tell you you’re crazy, that you’ll fail and lose everything, and that you should just go and get a normal job and stop making things difficult for yourself and your family. Naturally, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to block out this negative energy and push forward. However, somewhere along the way, the idea that you should block out the opinions of those who simply think entrepreneurship in general is too hard is too risky came to mean that you should block out any and all detractors, and that’s a belief that can be incredibly harmful to your company’s success.
While you do need to be able to push past naysayers who just want to see you fail or are generally negative people, you can’t just ignore anyone who doesn’t sing your praises in the name of being a dedicated entrepreneur who will never give up on an idea. Some negative feedback is incredibly valuable and listening to it could be the difference between your success or failure.
So, how do you tell the difference between someone who wants to rain on your parade because he or she would never have the guts to build what you’re building and someone who has genuinely helpful and insightful feedback about why you’re a little off track with your product or service or business model?
Ask yourself a few questions:
Is the person negative about entrepreneurship in general or about your idea? If someone thinks anyone, anywhere, starting any business is crazy and will fail, you can probably ignore their negativity. However, if this is someone who supports entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship but has reservations about the specifics of what you’re building, listen up. You may or may not agree with them in the end, but be sure to understand what gives them pause before deciding. They may see something you’re missing.
Does this person have experience? This could be experience as an entrepreneur, experience in the industry you’re targeting, or any other experience relevant to what you’re trying to build. If someone has a deep understanding of what you’re up against, be sure to listen to their reservations.
Is this person part of your target market? Not everyone is going to understand everything that could be a big hit so you shouldn’t weigh everyone’s opinion equally when you’re asking for feedback on your product or service. If your ideal customer is a 13 year old girl, it’s not all that important that your 70 year old neighbour Bill thinks your product is no good. If his 13 year old granddaughter and her friends also thinks it’s no good, however, you’d better take a second look at whether or not your customer actually wants to buy what you want to sell.
Do you respect this person’s opinion about others’ ventures? It may not be a nice thing to say, but everyone has people in their lives whose opinions they simply don’t value that much, and that’s fine. However, if this person is someone whose opinion you generally respect and whose judgement has been sound when evaluating others’ endeavours, you should definitely listen to any concerns they have about your business.
At the end of the day, it’s the entrepreneur’s job to believe in what he or she is building, even if few others do, and to have the strength, confidence, and stamina to push forward, whether or not there is wide support at the beginning. You shouldn’t take every negative opinion to heart and pivot every time someone isn’t in love with what you have to offer. However, you can’t simply ignore every negative comment either. Using these questions will help you decide when you should politely set aside someone’s negative energy and when you should take a closer look at whether you’ve gotten off track somewhere along the way and should heed a critic’s advice.