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The Value of Honest Feedback

Intro by Skip Cohen

While this archived post is part of Sarah Petty’s blog, it was written by Erin Verbeck. Erin is the Chief Joy Officer at the Joy of Marketing. She’s a non-stop contributor to excellent business/marketing tips, content and working with Sarah to help artists raise the bar on the quality of their business!

As I read this post, it got me thinking about my early days at Rangefinder and WPPI. There were two things I realized early on. First, I was proud of the fact that I had a team that felt comfortable screaming at me when I had a bad idea. Nobody sugar-coated their opinion on any of the ideas we all shared. In the same respect, when all four of us agreed on an idea for the magazine or convention, I knew we had a winner.

Second, going back all the way to my Hasselblad days, I had always said, “I don’t want to hear what we do right! I know what we do right – I want to know where we’re screwing up!”

Erin hits on a topic in this post that’s so important as both an artist and business owner – developing a core group who will always give you honest feedback, as opposed to sharing what you want to hear. Only when you understand the things you’re doing wrong, or could do better, can you make the necessary changes to build a stronger business.

We say we want the truth. We claim we want honest feedback on our current marketing idea. Yet most of us (especially females, myself included) really only want to hear it if it’s positive. We’re often our own worst critic so when we seek feedback, what we want deep down is a reassurance.

I think many of us in small business are hard-wired to please people. That’s why we got into business in the first place – to share our talents and gifts with others to make them happy, too! When we don’t knock the ball out of the park (whether it be with the special event we planned, the new recipe we tried or the direct mail piece we sent out), we’re down in the dumps, sometimes for days.

Those closest to us who we seek feedback from becoming hesitant to share with honesty because they see how we get defensive or worse, depressed when they do! And the worst offenders of us are those who HOLD A GRUDGE against those who tried to give us honest feedback.

But the thing is if we’re always told everything we do is perfect, we never gain perspective, we never grow, we’re never challenged to be better. So as painful as it may be, find a group of confidants whose opinion you really value. These people have your best interest at heart. They aren’t competitors or even competitive with you (so family may not be the best people for this group). They are people who understand your goals, appreciate your work, and want you to be better. Then ask them for their honest feedback and put away your ego.

Be prepared to take their feedback without the tears, without the defensiveness, without the attitude. They are doing you a favor. Now take it and run with it!


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