By Bryan Orr
“What would you do if you had a time machine?” It’s a question that came up at least 17 times in your first week of 6th grade, answered with the typical “Kill Hitler” and “See dinosaurs” answers. It can be more than a juvenile question if you apply it to your business.
So. Time machine. What would you do? I wouldn’t go back and instill new skills. Skills can only be developed over time and no amount of information can make you better at something when you don’t have the hours at the grindstone. I wouldn’t even try to prevent myself from making mistakes, as they are the catalysts for growth in the business.
So here are the things I would do differently if I could go back 10 years.
Stop Working in Isolation
When I first started in business I kept my head down and worked. It made sense to me; there was so much to do and very few people to help me. What I didn’t understand at the time was that insulating myself caused me to become unproductive over time and helped to maintain the false reality that I was the only person willing and able to get the work done.
Over the past year, a wealth of experienced, trustworthy advisors have helped me develop and have challenged my thinking in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined in my early days. Resources like business courses, mentorships and mastermind groups have allowed me to see how other people have solved my very same problems.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that doing the work is critical, but it’s easy to get stuck there when you’re a one-person band. Make sure you are building in support right from the get go.
Be Open Possibilities
The idea of specialization was strong in me when I first started. I wanted to be clear on what I/we did and DID NOT do so that I wouldn’t lose focus. It’s interesting because in general this trait is a good thing, but the way I practiced it was shutting down opportunities before they even had a chance to take root.
“Don’t respond with negativity.” Your eyes may have just glazed over, but that was me. My response was always: “My concern is…” or “That can’t work because…” Choose responses like “That sounds very interesting” and “Tell me more about that.” By allowing the conversation to proceed without adding in negative comments I have found that we get great opportunities without over committing.
Stop Being Defensive
I used to be DEFENSIVE about my business. I took every comment and criticism to heart. I still struggle with this, but it helps to know that most people react based on what’s going on inside of them. People are generally not aware of their own “why” let alone yours, and in most cases, they won’t even listen if you tell them. Let them criticize. Respond with a “I can see where you’re coming from,” and let it go.
If I am less concerned about what I did wrong and instead I focus on the relationship with the other person: how I can be present with them, serve them, and learn from them. Show you care about a person more than defending yourself, and there is a much better chance that a negative experience turns positive.
At the end of the day, if something doesn’t work out, I know two things: brushing over an offense is almost never as bad as my defensive self would want me to believe it will be, and not correcting the other person will at minimum work out better than if I had let my defensive self HANDLE the situation.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently in your business?