Monday, August 11, 2008

Zen | 8 | Quiet

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.

Lao Tzu

There is a power that very few entrepreneurs leverage when starting their business and even operating their business. The power to listen.

There are three primary causes that I have seen in entrepreneurs who refuse to listen to advice.

The first cause is the ego. It is natural that entrepreneurs have above average ego's, especially young entrepreneurs - but when it blocks genuine advice from colleagues, investors or even customers, it becomes a liability that many times leads to failure.

The second cause is silence. Most entrepreneurs don't seek advice or conversation for that matter, and so they work in a vacuum and they have no critics or mentors. One of the most effective causes of innovation is conversation. If an entrepreneur does not invoke conversation, then there typically is very little innovation.

The third cause is bad advice. Many entrepreneurs I have met are unable to distinguish between good advice (with good intent) and bad advice. So although they take initiative to listen, they are unable to qualify the source. And when they take bad advice to heart and fail, they assume all advice is bad and become unwilling to seek advice from someone new.

Despite these causes, many entrepreneurs have learned the power of "Quiet". It may take a while to consciously remind yourself to seek advice and listen intently, but the quieter you become, you will begin to see the benefits of this powerful tool.

In every business you have a cast of characters. There is the entrepreneur, customer and typically an investor. When you are starting a new company, you may think that the only value potential customers can only offer is money - but you are wrong. In any business, the feedback and advice from both investors and customers is more valuable than money. It is by listening, that you are able to finance your business, build a better product and close sales. Too many entrepreneurs build a product in a vacuum and try to "force" it down the throats of investors and customers. These businesses typically never get finance, and never are able to succeed selling product.

By being a "quiet" entrepreneur and listening to the market, you can expand and mold your ideas to fit the demand. Instead of trying to convince thousands of customers to listen to you - focus your effort on listening to them and then build a company that serves there demand.

If you think about the process of innovation, it is not driven by a single voice going to door-to-door convincing each person that they need their product - but the opposite. Innovation is driven by the entrepreneur who stops and listens to what the masses want, and then build a product that provides them the solution.

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