ASKED & ANSWERED is Vistaprint’s small business advice column – each week, experts answer questions from small business owners like you. Today, brand strategist Olivia Christian tackles your questions about standing out and staying motivated.
“Don’t take advice from people who have never done it. Their fear will become your limitation.”
Olivia Christian is a brand strategist and workshop lead – her ‘Own Your Story’ workshop has helped thousands of entrepreneurs share their small business stories.
As a Brand Partner at Vistaprint, we’ve asked her to share some of her best advice to recent brand questions.
You asked. Olivia answered.
My family and friends often give me unsolicited advice about how to grow my jewelry business. I value their opinions, I do. But when their advice conflicts with what I had in mind, I feel less confident and then I get stuck. What do I do about all those opinions?
Words I’ve never said: “Hey dad, what’s the best shape for my eyebrows given the structure of my face?”
No shade, but my dad’s eyebrows are a mess. Why would I ask him this when there are hundreds of thousands of YouTubers that can not only answer that question, but show me how to do it myself, tell me which products to use, and send me down a rabbit hole of other beauty videos?
Luckily for everyone reading this, we live in the time of this thing called Google! Great advice from experts or hustlers who made their dream a reality (often after many, many failures) is at our fingertips. For this reason, it’s important to refrain from asking your family, your friends, or your neighbors for business advice IF they’ve never done the thing you’re thinking about doing.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t seek feedback. Feedback is important. Feedback, beta tests, and surveys can provide you with perspectives you wouldn’t have otherwise. Good, constructive feedback can help you make tweaks to things that you never would have considered because, as entrepreneurs, we’re often so emotionally close to the work that it’s hard to see the holes or gaps.
Now, what I am saying is to seek advice from people who’ve done it. Their examples and experiences can inform your approach. Look to thought leaders for tips and Ted Talks on things like how to handle investors, when to roll out new products, and what to look for when hiring employees are out there by the boatload. Take advantage of the free resources available to you, and use them to make an informed decision.
And, by the way, please know that I totally get the irony of me giving you advice about who not to take advice from. That’s irony, right?
I just launched a podcast for new moms. Most of the listeners are my close friends and family at this point. I ask for their feedback after every episode so I can get better. Sometimes their comments are a little…off. How do I stay true to myself but not just ignore their suggestions?
I only eat my mom’s potato salad. I only eat my uncle’s mac n’ cheese. I only eat sushi from sushi restaurants. Right now, your instincts are probably telling you that I’m hungry while typing this. If so, your instincts are right.
Being an entrepreneur involves living in that delicate balance of trusting your instincts and making decisions by commission. But like I said above, seeking feedback is 100% important. Small business owners can often be too close to their product or service to see the holes and gaps. Putting out surveys and asking for comments and suggestions in your social posts are all great ways to both engage your audience and conduct some low-cost market research!
But when push comes to shove, no one knows your business like you. Your passion, perseverance, and purpose have gotten you to this point. Don’t give it up just to satisfy the whims and fantasies of people who aren’t (and just can’t be!) as invested in your success as you are… financially or emotionally.
The people in your network likely mean well when they suggest you add more brown sugar to your barbeque sauce, or change the font of your logo, or encourage you to get bangs before your professional photoshoot. You’re allowed to say thank you and walk away.
I believe your heart and your gut are connected. If your gut is telling you to not do something it’s likely because your heart won’t be in it. And if your heart’s not in it, what are you even doing?
My instinct tells me your mom’s potato salad probably won’t be as good as mine. And my gut and my heart agree!
Online reviews are a great place to get customer feedback – learn how to ask customers for reviews and join in on the conversation. here