Written by Randi Zimmermann
Whether in business, relationships, school assignments, or almost any situation you can think of, you can get too close to a situation and the path forward becomes dubious. Everyone experiences this barrier. You don’t have to be scared of evaluating your business.
For some reason, making decisions gets harder the closer we get to the subject matter. It becomes more difficult to see things impartially and with good judgement. Evaluating your business from an outsider’s perspective is probably one of the hardest things for a business owner to do, but it is a requirement for finding success.
We’ve all been there before – a close friend is in a terrible situation with their significant other and you just want to shake them! We ask, “why can’t you see that this isn’t going to work?” Nonetheless, you are forced to sit back and let them make their own mistakes. Inevitably, your friend gets hurt. Sometimes you know that you’re on the receiving end of that experience, but you just can’t seem to see outside of your own attachment to that person.
The same thing can happen with a business! We get set in our ways after putting so much work into it that we struggle to have an impartial and realistic view. Approaching your business from an outsider’s perspective can be very difficult, and even emotional. Taking this step is 100% necessary, especially if business has plateaued or you are looking to scale.
There are some questions that can help you to figuratively step outside of yourself for the sake of the business and your future. Evaluating your business means asking yourself some tough questions and being brutally honest in order to make necessary changes.
1. What have I worked the hardest on? What do I feel most proud of?
These aspects of our business tend to be the ones that we have the hardest time changing. The time we’ve invested might seem wasted if someone wants to make changes or updates.
2. What aspects of my business am I most attached to? Is there a customer service approach, product manufacturing process, or even a decision-making process that I’ve been persistent about through the years?
It might be time to recognize a technological or cultural shift that could impact your business strategy. Yes, it’s business – and yes, we get emotionally attached to parts of it. When you invest so much time and energy into something you care about, humans are bound to have a (sometimes illogical) attachment to it.
3. Am I holding on to dated beliefs about what works for my clients and business?
For example, just because the way you’ve handled marketing worked in the past, doesn’t mean it will continue to work moving forward. Industries change and with the growth of technology, customers’ expectations change. Innovation is relevant here, even to current products and services you may offer.
4. Have I become defensive about any part of my business?
If you’ve ever received a customer complaint and had the knee-jerk reaction to defend yourself, then you’ve gotten defensive. Other people can’t possibly understand how difficult it was to work through this process or else they wouldn’t nitpick so much! Flexibility is key, however, take those complaints as an opportunity for improvement.
5. Have my employees made suggestions lately? If so, what kinds of suggestions?
Employees can play a key role in identifying the best way to improve processes, products or services. They are often on the ground floor, talking to customers and hearing their feedback directly. Be careful with this one, choose your highest performing employees and ask them for an honest opinion. You might get some interesting insight on where they think you can make improvements.
6. Who do I trust to be honest with me?
The answer to this question is likely not going to be a family member or close friend – there are already too many emotional connections and possibly baggage here. I suggest finding someone that you are friendly with but whom you won’t be offended by when presented with harsh truths. Colleagues can often take on the unique viewpoint of a ‘customer’ without necessarily being one and give invaluable feedback.
Sometimes, these questions are challenging to reflect on, but remember that growth (both personal and professional) only comes with genuine self-reflection. In order to review your business and it’s potential, you have to be open to recognizing your business’ flaws. This helps you turn those flaws into your business’ greatest strengths.
I once heard a great athlete speak about the way that they looked at improvement. She would constantly evaluate her strengths and weaknesses with the goal of identifying where she could most improve. Identify your weakest areas and work until it is your greatest strength, then re-evaluate and repeat the process. This forces your business to constantly be improvement focused. Whether you are working on product or service development, customer service, or operational streamlining, there are opportunities for growth.