From the March 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

You're used to stretching the boundaries of your imagination as you transform your idea into a successful venture. But there will always be people who question your strategies and abilities. Rather than becoming irritated or confused, turn confrontations into learning experiences by recognizing that critics often have important knowledge to offer.

Listen to the information and experiences that naysayers have to share; nuggets of truth are always present. Every situation has the potential to uncover hidden opportunities to grow your business and shed new light on how to overcome challenges. Your adeptness at tapping into these opportunities can open the door to your next strategic breakthrough.

  1. Catch yourself. Everything you say has an impact. When people criticize your idea, think before you react harshly. Pause and analyze what they say to determine how their experience can help you. Avoid being confrontational; this will only discourage people who have unique perspectives on your dilemma. Be positive and explore the realm of possibilities by asking them questions and listening to their entire opinion. Being right doesn't get you anywhere. Your goal is to uncover unique action steps that can produce exceptional results.
  2. Recognize that, more often than not, people want to help you succeed. When people criticize you or your business, they may not understand how to offer constructive criticism. Refocus the conversation by asking them what actions they would take to overcome the challenges you face. Making them feel as though they're part of the solution encourages them to provide you with additional remedies you may not have considered.
  3. Be open to unorthodox ideas. Seemingly unconventional viewpoints often contain a relevant perspective. Don't shoot down an idea just because it sounds unusual. Work to understand what the other person is trying to convey.
  4. Always remember that you're the business owner. Write down all the ideas others share with you, but don't feel obligated to implement them. Circumstances change, and an idea that seems crazy today might actually be sensible later. Be versatile in your thinking, and explore how ideas can fit together and form a new approach that can improve your products and increase your sales.
  5. Confirm your direction with successful people. Before embarking on a major new business course, share your plan of action with your colleagues. Bouncing ideas off other successful people encourages creative problem solving and helps you evaluate the profitability of a new business direction. Open yourself up to further opportunities by conversing with colleagues from other fields. Discovering how their strategies can be applied to your business will help you stand out from your competition.

Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Success and Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write to him at romanus@kickstartguy.com.