The Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS aims to honour, benefit and uplift South African business owners with a specific focus on small and medium enterprise (SME) owners.
In celebration of this competition, I am sharing some of my thoughts and experiences with you on using criticism to fuel business growth and your growth as an entrepreneur.
#EntrepreneurshipIsNoJoke and I believe if you can’t handle criticism you will struggle to grow as an entrepreneur. Becoming a successful entrepreneur involves dealing with objections from business finance applications to clients not buying into your product or service. As such, I believe it is important not to view every objection as a personal attack.
In fact, for my part, I am extremely grateful to those who criticised me, it is those people who have caused me to grow faster than anyone who said nice words to me.
When people are critical, it is important to try and understand what they are actually trying to say and why they are saying the things they do. Are they just jealous and if so, why are they actually jealous, are they noticing something about you that you may have not noticed about yourself? Indirectly they could be giving you plenty of recognition, and recognition is one of our basic needs.
They could be complaining about your service, but are unable to effectively communicate how they would like things to be different. One of your biggest goals should be to improve your listening skills, as this will contribute to 80% of your success and often it is what is not said, more than what is said that is vitally important.
Find out what your competition is saying about you. I have heard so many people say they don’t have competition, because they think they are so good. Pride comes before a fall, so make sure you know who your competitors are and find out what they are saying about you. I have learnt so much from my haters, that I am convinced the saying of keep your friends close and your enemies even closer is so true. I have often thought that my haters are better than my friends, at least they are brutally honest.
The area where I have received the most criticism has been as an online influencer. When I started I was known as the RuleBreaker and ChangeMaker and people did not appreciate the fact that I challenged the status quo. I soon learnt that although they did not want to admit it, they appreciated my shoot from the hip approach and in a way it gave them a chance to live vicariously through the things I did.
My competitors did not like me, they viewed me as an overnight success as they thought I came out of nowhere. The reality was that they were striving for local importance and my focus was always international relevance. Success is never overnight, I had worked consistently hard to ensure I became relevant to the international market. I knew who my competitors were, but because they had only focused on their local country or area, I was off their radar until I was ready to move in on their territory.
Listening to your critics today has become easier with digital tools, but you should never forget the small voices, the people who you think are insignificant, as sometimes it is these people who will say something that will jolt you back to reality. You can never listen enough!
What has been your greatest lesson as an entrepreneur?
Let us share our stories so that we can be even more successful as entrepreneurs. I know you have stories about your journey as an entrepreneur, your experience may even be significant enough to win you an award in the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Winning an award will surely help you achieve the recognition you seek and deserve, and will catapult you and your project higher than you imagined was possible.
I encourage you to share your experiences using the #CelebrateEntrepreneurship so that we can all learn and become successful entrepreneurs. As they say, ‘The rising tide lifts all ships’.