BY ZECH NEWMAN
Assumptions hurt businesses. Remaining blind to the causes won’t make you immune to the damaging effects.
As an entrepreneur, you devote time and energy to your business, pouring money into new products and services. If you’re like most visionaries, you’re stubborn. You don’t like to be told what to do, and you might not be interested in hearing you don’t know what you don’t know.
This mindset risks creating a pattern of willful ignorance. What if challenging some of your own assumptions could reveal answers that transform your business for the better? Have you considered hiring a consultant, seeking honest input from employees or surveying your customers?
Here’s a quick list of biases to double-check as you look for ways to shatter your assumptions and work smarter in 2019.
Assumption 1: You’re a known name in your market.
Among my businesses is a pizza restaurant that’s operated for a decade in a town of about 5,000 people. A few years ago, while shopping a block away, I introduced myself to the store’s owner and mentioned my own business. “I’ve never heard of that place,” my fellow entrepreneur said. “Where is it?” I walked with her to the front of her store and pointed to my restaurant.
I assumed everyone in town noticed my shop more than they actually did. It was a good reminder to keep pushing to break through the noise, even a smaller competition pool. Your sales could be suffering from obscurity without your even realizing it.
Assumption 2: You’re the best.
I have yet to meet an entrepreneur who doesn’t believe his or her product or service is the best. I’m no different. I “know” my business is superior. You probably would say the same about your company, too. There’s only one, glaring problem: If you think you’re already doing everything you can, there’s no room to improve.
Odds are, you aren’t viewing yourself in an accurate light — and you’re unlikely to correct that vision on your own. It’s like trying to be objective about your own children. Bring in a qualified, credible someone from the outside and approach your conversations with a learner mindset. Do your best not to think or speak from a defensive position. Rather, seek to get a broader perspective so you can make smart decisions even when the truth is hard to hear.
Assumption 3: Everyone in your organization feels your level of ownership.
No doubt your vision for your business is highly personal. Maybe you also believe your employees need to care about your company as much as you do. That combination can have negative effects, leading you to churn through employees until you find people who match your own level of accountability.
Your team members might care a lot about your shared work, but they’re never going to make the same kind of sacrifices you will to pursue your vision. Don’t saddle your crew with those expectations. Instead, marry your vision with their personal vision. What does this company mean to them? Do they see opportunities for development and advancement? Is the work fulfilling for them? Align your common goals, and you’ll build a team of employees who will run through a brick wall for you and your company.
Assumption 4: You serve everyone.
When you try to serve everyone, you actually end up serving no one. You will become indispensable to customers and acquire raving fans if you get very specific about whom you exist to help. Along the way, your company will pull in customers who live beyond your target’s perimeter. Think of them as a bonus, but never lose track of your base. When you narrow down your focus, your advertising becomes more specific, your products become more helpful, and your business will become more profitable.