A long time ago my grandmother told me, “What other people think of you is none of your damned business”.
Yes, Grandma said the word damn. She was a tough but loving Greek Orthodox woman who ran away with my German Protestant grandfather only to be excommunicated from her family and friends for nearly a decade before they would accept the fact that she wasn’t coming back. She and my grandfather worked day and night to build a local business and along the way they made many friends who they could count on in their darker times. But she never failed to remind me that they had their fair share of competitors and their competitors’ customers who were not fans of what they did and regularly would let their opinions be known. Back then, there was no internet or cell phones, no Facebook or LinkedIn. Their critics couldn’t hide behind the anonymity of the device they were typing on. No, their critics were across the room at the local Elks club sharing a drink with a potential client of theirs. Their criticism was very personal, very in-their-face and it took a monumental task for my grandfather to avoid public demonstrations of verbal Judo with his competitors.
And it was worth it.
In the end they built a fabulous business with a stellar reputation in the community. The reality is, in order to achieve greatness they had to be willing to hear the criticism of their peers and do what it took anyway.
As you begin this journey it’s important for you to understand that if you take the road less traveled in your industry. If you turn your profession into a business, there will be a fair amount of your competitors who believe you to be a lesser form of them. They will think themselves superior to you in the practice that you’re in and they will voice their opinion. I say to you, celebrate when that happens! It means you’re on the right track. The fact is that most people get it wrong. Most people are one bad month away from being in financial trouble. Most professionals struggle to meet payroll every two weeks. Most professionals are more concerned with how their competition sees them than they are about how their clients see them. Most professionals get it wrong. When they criticize you, I say pour the gas on the fire. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying to start trouble. What I’m saying is keep doing more of what works. If they dislike your marketing, do more of it. If they criticize you fanaticism with customer service, get even more fanatical about it. If they are aggravated about it, more than likely it’s the thing that’s working. It’s what separates you from them. Naturally, I suggest knowing your numbers so you can invest in the most profitable of these ventures, that’s where systems come in. But, more times than not, if your competitors hate it, you’re headed in the right direction.
Just yesterday I was talking with a client. We were discussing his view of the industry and why he was concerned about what his peers thought of him. When I shared with him my grandmother’s theory of others’ opinions, he wasn’t sure he could shut it out that simply. He pointed out that my most successful client was not well-liked on a particular internet forum. I said thank you, you made me feel even more confident that we’re on the right path.
The reality is, no one likes anyone to say bad things about them. Not me, not my grandmother, not my successful clients. We all want to believe that everyone likes us. The reality is, they don’t. No matter what you do, you’ll tick someone off. So, you might as well become successful while you do it.
Building a better business, one ticked-off peer at a time…