April 28, 2016

When Constructive Criticism Doesn’t Sound Very Constructive

small business riskWithout a doubt, you’ll always be in one of your most overwhelmed, gremlins-in-the-kitchen, can’t get anything to work right, days when someone will stop by and offer you some constructive criticism about what you should be doing with your business.

As you undoubtably know, their ideas and opinions come from a good place – wanting to see your business succeed either because they love you as a person or are a consumer who loves your products/company. But these comments oftentimes not only come on those days where you just can’t do one more thing without imploding, but may also illustrate a lack of understanding about the industry and how it works. ‘Why don’t you just get into XYZ and then you can sell your products nationwide,’ they ask in a way that makes it seem like the little local accounts you’re working your tail off for aren’t worthwhile. Not to mention, they don’t understand what it takes to get into a major retailer like XYZ, the operational constraints that would hinder your ability to product enough product for XYZ, or the financials associated with getting your product onto a national retailer’s shelves and supporting the product with marketing dollars.   Yes, it sounds great in theory but actually implementing said suggestion is akin to summiting Mount Everest right now.

I don’t know about you but when I find myself in these situations, I often feel a mix of frustration, exhaustion, and – truthfully – a little bit hurt.  Here I am working myself around the clock and all someone can say is ‘you could be doing better’ as though I’m not my own harshest critic.  Not to mention, now I have to take time out of my day to explain why said theory either won’t work or, while a great idea, is not realistic at the moment.  And I have to do it with a smile on my face.

Regardless, the smile does get slapped on and we listen to what is being recommended.  In part because every so often there truly is a gem of an idea that you may not have considered yet or someone may offer to make an introduction to their brother-in-law who works at XYZ retailer.

But when, 95% of the time this constructive criticism really is more critical than constructive, how do you respond?  Do you take the time to explain why something may not be feasible or do you simply end the conversation with a ‘that’s a great idea – I’ll take that under advisement’ statement?  I’d truly love to know because while the former feels too negative, the later feels flippant and dishonest.  How do you deal with the ideas, brain storms, and suggestions that friends, family members, and consumers make about your company, your brand, and your products?

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