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Hey, Listen Up!

Plugging in to what others have to say can spark new ideas for your business.
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This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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Usually, when budding entrepreneurs say "I'm open to suggestions and constructive criticism," they really mean "I'm only open to praise and positive feedback. Please keep your negative comments to yourself!"

Convention teaches us that self-confidence and complete control are the cornerstones for becoming truly great entrepreneurs. By that logic, if you want to achieve your dream, you must know the exact next step to take.

In reality, successful entrepreneurs know that asking for help is the key to success. Being open to suggestions can be rewarding. Recommendations and ideas that others share with you can grow your business faster than you ever imagined.

Stop trying to have all the answers. Instead, open your mind to the wisdom that's around you. By allowing others to help, you tap into an ever-flowing stream of ideas, contacts and resources that will save you time, money and frustration. Try these steps to grow your business and become open to ideas:

1. See people around you as resources. "What a small world!" is what two people say when they discover a connection they didn't realize they had. When you meet new people, consider what ideas they could contribute to your business. Tell them about your business, and let the small world open up an even larger one to you.

2. Ask for specific help. Focus your questions on the one or two key items you need help with so you can get answers and move forward. Apply this focus to your daily contacts. If press contacts are your main concern, make this the main topic of conversation. Your sharp focus will provoke an equally keen response. Don't assume that people know what you need. Ask!

3. Shift your brain to the open position. Offering suggestions is not always an easy thing to do. People often operate from the experience that their ideas are unwelcome and may be harshly judged, or that their ideas will not make a huge difference. By listening to them, you give people the opportunity to share their experiences, ideas and contacts. Once they discover you're open to receiving ideas, they will flood you with them.

4. Fill up your "idea junk drawer." Your goal is to get as many ideas as you can. Circumstances can change. An idea you think is silly today may seem brilliant tomorrow. Don't lose them! You're the business owner, so you can use any suggestion people give you however you want.

5. Thank the people who help you. It feels good to help someone achieve their dreams, and it feels even better to be appreciated. Thank people and keep them informed of your progress, even if their suggestions were only part of the solution. Send handwritten notes--this is a wonderful way to express your gratitude.

6. Become a resource. Be part of the power of sharing ideas. Offer people suggestions that can help them achieve success, too. Let them know what's working for you, and create a community of support.

A young entrepreneur in one of my workshops asked timidly, "Is it still my business if others help me?" No matter how many people help, it's still your business. You are the one who has to implement the ideas given to you, but it's so much easier when others help you. Be open to ideas, listen and make room for other people to share in your success!

Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is the author of Kick Start Your Dream Business. Write him at

Edition: May 2017

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