Criticism may be a difficult pill to swallow for entrepreneurs, whose absolute conviction in their vision is what keeps them going against all odds.
The typical qualities of entrepreneurs like passion, determination, and to an extent, stubbornness, can make it difficult for well meaning criticism to be accepted and absorbed by them.
After all it is a lonely path that a founder chooses outside the regular comfort zones of financial security and familiar businesses to launch a startup.
While negative feedback on one’s life’s work can feel hurtful and demoralising, it could be stimulus for improvement and lasting positive changes for a startup. Infact, blocking out criticism totally may leave a startup in a vacuum as that would mean blocking out direct feedback that can, in fact, help you learn and grow. It should, therefore, be taken positively and construed as constructive feedback for you to work on.
Customer criticism is valuable
With social media playing an omnipresent role nowadays, it has emerged as the fastest conduit for criticism to go public. It is very easy for a few negative posts from disgruntled customers to go viral with sharing across a multitude of platforms.
This can have serious repercussions, especially for online startups or trendy tech products, if the criticism is ignored and not countered efficiently and gracefully. In fact, it is valuable feeback that no startup should ignore. Afterall, if your customers aren’t satisfied with your product or service, you can’t survive for long!
Remember, potential customers nowadays research all the user feedback available for a company, product or service online before switching to a new site or product.
So, any negative reviews could become a deterrent for other potential customers and hamper your growth. The criticism or negative feedback should, therefore, be viewed in the correct perspective, putting aside the natural tendency of a knee jerk reaction, and corrective steps be taken to address the root of the problem.
There could be valid reasons for the dissatisfaction of the customer, so it is important to analyse the complaint from all angles and find a proper solution, so the same issue does not crop up again.
Most of the times, the criticisms are complaints about the service or product, which can be rectified. If handled well, this complete exercise can be turned to a startups advantage by using the very same social media to highlight the positive steps to address such issues.
Welcome criticism from peers/ team members
For truly effective leadership, an entrepreneur should be open to criticism from within the team. A startup should be able to creatively find solutions to internal critiques. This will ensure a sense of ownership among the team and an emotional involvement which will instil loyalty. Usually high attrition among staff is seen in organisations where people do not feel like their voice and opinion counts.
Startups need a network of peers to give them feedback during their passage towards their goals. Criticism from such quarters should be welcomed, as more than often they prove to be constructive.
If a startup does not get any feedback, it is a cause for worry as it shows the networking has failed. Often criticism from industry peers are dispassionate and not through coloured lenses, but through experience, and can be a blessing in disguise, if something is wrong and the startup has not spotted it.
It is natural to have brick bats thrown at a rival startup by a competitor. The recent media spat and war of words between Flipkart and Amazon India is a good example of public criticism. However, all criticism may not be a publicity stunt or a bragging stint. Keeping an open mind to these inputs might actually show a startup where they may be lagging behind in the market.
For instance, the founder of Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson, proved all the any sayers wrong, when, upon the launch of his company in 1984, they predicted he’d fail. He endeavoured to overcome each criticism constructively and achieved success. Successful startups know how to single out the truly valid criticisms and adapt to improve accordingly.
Startups should treat criticism as a springboard to grow as a company. Afterall, it’s not personal vendetta that leads to criticism, but grievances that people may share after using your product/service or hearing about it. So, use this feedback to your advantage by addressing the core issue.
Moreover, as a whole, the company should learn to handle negative feedback. As the startup grows, special teams will be needed to monitor, handle, deflect or take corrective action on negative feedback on a regular basis. This will need a lot of patience and practice, but will be a huge advantage for the startup in the long run.
Accelerator Evangelist @ GHV Accelerator. Vikram is a Strategic leader and entrepreneur with a successful background of building and leading top performing teams focused on exceeding goals. Dynamic in orchestration of multimillion-dollar business start-ups, turnaround & growth ventures. Advanced communicator and cultivator of key relationships with all levels of personnel, clients, businesses, and executive managers. Big picture thinker, talented and driven to impact bottom line while ensuring staff compliance with enterprise standards, procedures, and regulations.