Smart Entrepreneurs Are Good Listeners

Many years ago I sat with a successful entrepreneur in Atlanta. I laid out CCAW’s business model and where I thought the company was headed. The entrepreneur told me that our customer acquisition strategy was flawed. I disagreed and listed all the reasons it worked.

Years later I realized that how we acquired customers wouldn’t get us to our next revenue milestone. I had missed the value in that conversation. I was thinking about my company’s current state. The entrepreneur was thinking years ahead. He’d lived what I would soon face and was trying to warn me. I didn’t understand that because I had tunnel vision. I heard what he was saying but didn’t wonder why he was saying it.

I wasn’t looking for feedback (even though I said I was). I was looking for confirmation. I wanted to hear that what I was doing was right. Looking back, I realize the error in my thinking. I should have been searching for truth and open to it coming from anyone credible. I had been working so hard for so long that it was tough to swallow when someone pointed out that the blood, sweat, and tears I’d poured into something were all for nothing. I often didn’t want to hear it. What I should have done was listen to the feedback and digest it. If it was valid, I should have figured out how to incorporate it.

Entrepreneurs can have very strong views. It’s part of what differentiates them from others. But it’s a fine line and they should be careful not to cross it. Smart entrepreneurs continue to have strong opinions, but they are open to adjusting them when presented with credible new information. To succeed in the long run, they must be flexible and adaptable.

The next time someone credible gives you feedback that you’d rather not hear, don’t reflexively dig in. Listen actively. Ask follow-up questions. Digest the feedback. You never know, they could be pointing out something that could change your trajectory!