“Don’t take this personally but -“

Start a sentence like this and there are two things you can be sure of:

  1. It is personal
  2. Personally is exactly how it’s going to be taken

But what about in the world of business – when it really isn’t personal? Sometimes advice, as horribly worded as this isn’t meant to offend but instead is intended to inspire change and provide the truth that our friends and family are often too close to provide.

We work with a lot of startups and small businesses and (thankfully!) the majority of our clients seem keen to listen to our advice – warts and all. They get that we know what we’re talking about. They know that we’re experts at what we do just as they are experts at what they do – which is exactly why they ask for our opinion and why (most of time) they take heed.

But we also know, from our own experience, that it can sometimes be hard to hear criticism (albeit constructive) and not take it personally. When you work hard at what you do it’s difficult to admit that you could/should have done things differently and the thought of making changes can seem like an unbearable uphill battle where all previous efforts are rendered pointless. Obviously, they’re not – but it can feel that way.

This emotional attachment to our work, our business, our livelihood is of course, natural. But when it causes us not to pay attention to the warning signs ahead, is it healthy? It can’t be when you think about all the companies that fail or go into receivership. Perhaps these businesses were too personally invested to notice that they had a product that no-one wanted, was overpriced or wasn’t marketed or managed as well as it could have been.

The funny thing about business is that it isn’t personal. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Business is brutal. So be brutal back. If it’s broken, fix it. If you can’t fix it, bin it. If something isn’t working, change it. If something is working, invest all the time, energy and money that you can afford into it.

The business isn’t about you and it isn’t about them. What it’s really all about is putting money in the bank.

So don’t take this personally but – take it as business instead.