Propelled by what you think is a fantastic new product or service, you're poised to launch your own small business when a friend voices doubts about its effectiveness. How do you react? Do you ignore this negative feedback and forge ahead, only to find out later you should have paid attention?

It may be time to take a different approach, instead of learning the hard way. Why not invite criticism from the start? Negative feedback can be empowering. Seeing your business' weaknesses objectively could help you make the changes required to improve your product or service before it gets to market.

You may find that actively seeking feedback of all kinds will provide you with a chance to learn and the opportunity to do better. At first you might only hear the negativity, so you may have to dig deeper to understand what is at its roots. Once this becomes clear, you'll be in a better position to make improvements.

Instead of asking others what they like about your product or service, be proactive and ask what changes they would make. What flaws do they perceive? What roadblocks do they think might get in your way? If several people give you the same type of feedback, chances are they may have valid points.

How can you encourage others to offer constructive criticism?

  • Avoid being defensive, so that others will be honest with you
  • Seek out a mentor to be a sounding board
  • Create a focus group
  • Post all reviews online, even when mixed

You could save time and money when less than favourable feedback allows you to pause and make changes for the better. Thinking negatively may bring on some positive results.

Our section on Developing your ideas could help you decide whether to run with the concept you have. Once underway, there are various ways of getting opinions from friends and strangers on your product, service or business model; Conducting market research might shed some light on steps to take when sounding out others.