Has a client ever given you business advice?

Like this: “If you dropped your prices a bit, you could get a lot more people in here.”

If you’ve been around awhile, you probably just smile and thank the client for the advice. You probably know that his or her only business experience is as a consumer. You’re probably comfortable in the wisdom you’ve gained through your experience and focus.

But if you haven’t been around for long, that advice might be tempting to take. You think about it, right? Because, deep down, you think, “Everyone knows more about business than I do.” Or maybe you doubt your own value. Or maybe you just need filters for this stuff.

Even longtime box owners are susceptible to “advice” given online or by other business owners. Some of it is good; some of it isn’t. In Part 1 of this series, I told you how to filter the ideas you get outside your business. Here, I’m going to tell you how to build these filters for the people you care about most: your staff and your clients.

Because everyone wants to help.

Everyone has ideas.

Opinions are everywhere.

Facts are few.

 

First Filter: The Priority People Filter

 

“You don’t find an audience for your products. You find products for your audience.” —Seth Godin

You have to know who your best clients are and listen to them.

Do the “Apples exercise”: Figure out who your five top clients are. When they talk, you give them your full attention. When others talk, you smile and say, “Thanks.”

 

Second Filter: The Precision Filter

 

“Everyone is complaining about our programming!”

Exactly who is complaining and exactly what was said?

Most of your staff members have been taught to report problems instead of fix them. And because they care about you, they want to make sure you take their reports seriously. So they amplify their reports with words such as “everyone.”

But not everyone hates your programming. A few people might hate it—or they might just have questions.

Read “Killing the Canary” (it’s one of my best).

 

Third Filter: The Proposal Filter

 

I’m lucky enough to win the lottery every day.

I have enormous “who luck”—amazing people align with my vision and jump on board the Two-Brain bus.

Because they’re entrepreneurial, they have huge ideas.

But success in the Tinker Phase means saying “no” to good ideas and “not yet” to a lot of great ideas.

I love hearing ideas. My team knows it. They love to “brainstorm” stuff with me (and I with them). To make sure their ideas are fully formed, we have a Process Proposal Sheet to help all of us think through our ideas before sharing them with the team.

Many of my ideas die before I fill out the form completely. And that’s good: Putting them on paper means I won’t forget them. On the other hand, if they’re not ready to fill the page, they’re not ready to share with others yet.

If your business is small, you might not need written proposals for every idea. But you should limit brainstorming and ideation to specific forums: Have a brainstorming session at the end of a monthly team meeting or during your staff’s Career Roadmap meetings. When a staff person says, “I have a great idea!” respond with, “Awesome! Please bring it to our meeting on Saturday so everyone can hear it!”

That way, you avoid repetition, you avoid distraction, and you get to celebrate your bright ideas together.

 

Fourth Filter: The Perspective Filter

 

No one but you sees the entire landscape.

An idea might be great, but it doesn’t fit into your annual plan.

Or a complaint might be important to the complainer but shouldn’t distract you from the bigger vision.

This is a very tough filter to build because we’re hard wired to seek out threats and avoid them. It’s always tempting to shut down the entire school because the pencils aren’t sharp enough. We actually look for drama and then dwell on it instead of staying focused on the work we should be doing.

This one requires an objective third party, like a mentor.

One gym owner said this last week:

For perspective, that gym owner is changing the lives of dozens of people in our city—and she was focused on the work she wasn’t doing.

We all do it, and that’s why successful entrepreneurs have mentors. Every one of them!

 

Other Media in This Series

How to Get Clarity
Filter, Don’t Find
Clarity: The Two-Brain Roadmap and Mentorship
Clarity: The Greatest Gift You Can Give