Feedback is the most inexpensive and most powerful tool in business, and yet, it is the least utilized. Feedback increases our self-awareness, motivates us and our team, improves productivity, and allows us to refine our products and services. Unfortunately, as a solopreneur, you don’t have a boss, employees, or peers you communicate with on a regular basis. So, how exactly are you supposed to get valuable feedback so that you can improve your performance?
Take advantage of the people and resources you currently have. Sure, you don’t have a boss, but you do have clients and customers. Sure, you don’t have peers within your company, but you do have peers within your industry. You also have:
- Freelancers you may have hired
- Fellow entrepreneurs
- Friends within your industry
- Former employers (that you’re on good terms with, of course)
The secret is to choose people who are in a position to make observations about you, your company, or your products/services on a regular basis.
Fortunately, it’s simple and FREE to create a feedback form that allows people to provide you with anonymous feedback. The following software/online applications can be used to create your form.
- Google Forms
So, once you have your form software up and running, what questions should you include?
- What would you say about your experience with [our company]?
- What are [our company]’s strengths?
- What are [our company]’s weaknesses?
- What can you rely on [our company] for?
- What can you NOT rely on [our company] for?
- Is there anything additional you would like to tell us?
The power of feedback comes in two parts: receiving it and learning from it. As much as we tend to ask for it, brutally honest feedback can be pretty hard to swallow, particularly if it’s overwhelmingly negative. If you don’t have a thick skin, how do you handle criticism and how can you improve from it?
Don’t take it personally. This classic piece of advice is classic for a reason—it works. Distancing yourself emotionally will allow you to take feedback constructively and with the appropriate perspective. The easiest way to do this is to listen to the feedback as you would your doctor’s advice to eat less sugar.
Don’t justify, rationalize, or make excuses. Keeping an open and learning mindset (especially when it comes to criticism) will bring the most benefit. If you really think that you’re right in every which situation, you’re missing something. There are (rare) times that you’ll need to defend yourself, sure, but trying to minimize the issue at hand by attempting to justify, rationalize, or make excuses will make you look unprofessional and just plain immature.
Figure out what you can do differently. Using the Five Why’s, you can determine the root cause of the issue.
Problem: Your client is unhappy with the pamphlets you sold them, and they now refuse to pay.
- Why? You delivered them late, so they can no longer be used.
- Why? The printing job took longer than expected.
- Why? An extra order was placed and you made the mistake of prioritizing it.
- Why? You thought you had enough time to complete both printing jobs.
- Why? You didn’t manage your time properly.
Counter-measure: I need to better manage my time when I have multiple printing orders.
The bottom line is that no matter how hard it may be to hear, objective feedback (and the lessons you learn from it) is vital to your success as a solopreneur.