I’m sure you’ve heard by now how starting a business for the first time, involves endless experimenting, failing, and rejection. Not to mention the motivation it takes to pick yourself back up, put your big kid pants on and jump straight back into the shark tank. Read: Shark. Tank.
Every business faces obstacles – some take off from underneath you and leave you completely bewildered and scrambling to keep up. Others are the slow burn that seemingly take forever to build momentum. Regardless of how your business emerges from the blue, it’s true that you will inevitably cross paths with all kinds of people.
Some who, instead of helping you put on your shark proof rashie for the swim, like to give their ‘helpful’ advice on everything you are doing wrong. Please meet… Your critics.
Now, of course, just because your critics are, well, critical of you, does not mean they don’t want the best for you or want you to do well. There are always the small minority that will literally tear you down to better themselves and then there are others who legitimately are trying to help. Your job is to figure out which category the critic at hand falls into and whether the advice they are giving you is relevant, appropriate or ‘helpful.’
It’s also important that you don’t mistake the qualified professionals for critics – especially if you have paid them for their professional advice.
For this article, I’m specifically referring to the friends and family or people in your network – or perhaps random strangers at the bus stop, stranger things have happened – that are coming from a place of love. They don’t understand that when you are in the throes of pouring blood, sweat, tears, limbs, all your savings, sleepless nights, stress, worry, frustration and an ocean of passion into starting your own business that their ‘helpfulness’ can come across as being so damn unhelpful and sometimes, hurtful.
When your critics make comments to you, this becomes a moment of choice: you can become a victim of what they’ve said to you and throw a big old woe is me party with your own internal critic (critics love getting together!) and completely give up, or you can see the beauty in the underlying message or lesson. This does not mean you aren’t allowed to be hurt or upset by what they’ve said. Sometimes their comments can be damn hurtful – it’s okay to feel and to take time to process that.
There’s so much content out there about ‘why you should ignore your critics.’ This is wise to a certain extent. Ignoring them is more about not letting them rain on your parade, but it’s not about ignoring the learning – that part is actually critical to focus on. So here are three things my critics have said to me, what I’ve learnt from it and why I love them.
1. “If your business is still going in 6 months…”
This was my first introduction to the fact that everyone quite literally expects you to fail in business, especially the first time and especially in the beginning. It’s understandable, because the failure rate of new businesses is about 80%. Why are so many businesses failing? There’s many reasons but mostly it’s that people don’t understand what it actually takes to be successful in business and therefore aren’t prepared for that. Why would they be when candid discussion about business failure is few and far between – this is the reason we started our podcast, The Business Experiment- to have these very discussions and help people succeed.
I’ve realized this particular comment can generally come from three angles – either the person has heard that most businesses fail and have zero idea what it takes to build a business, they failed in their own business and are projecting that on to you or they are in the throes of their ownbusiness struggle and are trying to prepare you for your journey.
What’s missing however is that no two business journeys are the same.
What did comments like these teach me? Not everyone is going to believe in me. A lot of people won’t. If you spend your time seeking external validation for your success, you will set yourself up to fail. Success happens when you believe in yourself and sometimes you are the only person believing in you. That’s all you need to kick arse at this, because you are enough just by being you.
2. “How are you expecting entrepreneurs to want your services when you are not a successful entrepreneur yourself?”
I didn’t see this one coming nor had I thought about it before, which is the precise beauty in this question and how much I love it (now). At the time, I was nothing short of flabbergasted.
This question kick started thinking about a few things. Firstly, what’s the definition of success here? Just because someone else doesn’t consider you to be successful, does not mean you aren’t successful. The thing about success is it’s subjective… No two successes are the same. I also started to define why clients came to work with me and what success we achieved together. A question like this is a great opportunity to:
a) Define your niche – who are your ideal clients and what problems do you solve for them?
b) Consider what skills, experiences, qualifications, talents, strengths and benefits you, individually, offer clients?
c) Decide how to communicate the results you achieve with clients in a way that potential clients understand. At the end of the day, the success of your clients contributes to your own success, right?!
3. Upon announcing that I’ve decided to work with female entrepreneurs to grow their business, “Oh that’s an interesting choice. It’s very competitive.”
The world is a competitive place. There are literally only a few professions in existence. For example, the world is saturated with plumbers. This doesn’t mean you can’t build a successful plumbing business. It’s about what you individually bring to plumbing that counts.
The world is also full of podcasters. Anyone can start a podcast. It didn’t stop my business partner Jemimah and I starting The Business Experiment (which in 6 months has hit 30+ countries and reached 1.5 million people on Facebook alone).
It’s important to do your due diligence, but if you spend too much time worrying about your competitors, you’ll never find the courage to get your business off the ground. Remember, once upon a time Richard Branson started an airline against the advice of many. If he had have instead sat there and said “well Qantas dominate the market, what’s the point of trying?” where would we be today?
Remember, you are a smart person. Be responsible, make a plan, back yourself and be open to learning (and failure).
Be grateful to your critics and their helpful contributions to your evolution in business (despite how painful they can be!) Without them, you wouldn’t have been forced to think about things at a deeper level, you wouldn’t have found the courage you needed to keep going and you would not have the same level of resilience that you have now. That’s a beautiful thing; sharks and all.