All these types of feedback arm you with all the knowledge and data you need to make meaningful changes to your business
I’ve seen a lot of articles proclaiming to have the “one rule” or “one secret” to making a business succeed. Anyone who’s ever run a business knows that this is an impossible statement, and that there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of interrelated factors that determine whether a business succeeds or fails.
I don’t claim to have the one secret that can turn a failing business into a thriving one, but there is one concept that, if applied to many different areas, can almost guarantee a better likelihood of succeeding: feedback.
The many types of feedback
When I say feedback, you might think of performance reviews or customer surveys, but the truth is feedback comes in many different forms, and you’ll need all of them if you want to succeed. Feedback is raw data that tells you whether or not an element of your business is beneficial for your long-term plans — it’s that simple. If you know how to get this feedback, listen to it, and make necessary changes in response, you can theoretically identify and eliminate any potential problem before it starts compromising the integrity of your business.
Before you even start your business, you should be getting feedback on your overall concept. Start by asking your friends and family members for their thoughts, then pose your questions to your professional peers, bosses, mentors, and prospective partners. Don’t be intimidated or discouraged by people saying “that’s bad,” or “that’s crazy” — history is full of crazy entrepreneurs who proved these types wrong.
Instead, listen for specific, critical insights that you can use to improve your concept. For example, could you target a different demographic? Could you further distinguish yourself from existing competitors? You’re too close to your idea to find these issues, so rely on your peers for help.
Once your business has launched, you’ll want to gather as much customer feedback as you can. Pursue both quantitative (numbers-based and objective) and qualitative (word-based and subjective) feedback by using surveys, customer reviews, and multiple data points.
How are your customers finding out about you? Do they like your products and services? Are they worth the money? What could be better about the overall experience? These points will allow you to continuously refine and improve your product. After all, your customers are the ones who will keep your business alive — it’s in your best interest to give them what they want.
There are actually two kinds of employee feedback you need to concern yourself with. The first is the conventional type of employee feedback — letting your workers know what kind of job they’re doing. Through performance reviews and casual conversation, you can tell your employees when you’re impressed, when you’re displeased, and how they can improve for subsequent events and situations. This not only directly improves your team’s abilities, it also makes them feel more appreciated, and lets them know that their work truly matters.
Of course, to compound this appreciative gesture, it’s also important that you listen to feedback provided by your team members. Your employees see much more of the minutiae of daily work than you do, and may have critical insights about your processes, customers, products, and services than you do. To the point, they probably have ideas about how your infrastructure or approach could be improved — to everyone’s benefit.
Listen carefully to these suggestions, and reward your employees for presenting them; you’ll simultaneously bring your team closer together and identify pain points you didn’t know existed.
Finally, take a look at your financial reports regularly to see what the numbers are telling you. This is the most objective, unbiased feedback you can receive, and you’ll do well to listen to it. For example, what if you see your marketing expenditures growing without a corresponding increase in revenue? It implies that something is wrong with the campaign. What if your revenues are up but your profits are down? It implies that you either have too many expenses, or your profitability projections are off.
When your numbers miss the mark, don’t just assume they’ll correct themselves—take the initiative to change something and measure the results.
With all these types of feedback under your careful monitoring and subsequent consideration, you should be armed with all the knowledge and data you need to make meaningful changes to your business. You’ll start off with a better idea, shape that idea into something that your customers actually want, keep your team interested and engaged, and adapt to the inevitable changes of your market and competitors. It’s a lot to take in, and a lot to manage, but if you do so successfully, there should be nothing left to stop you from emerging as a stable and profitable enterprise.
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