Growing a business

Episode 8: The art of receiving feedback

Anyone trying to build something incredible should be open-minded. Sometimes, people not only want to know what you're doing, but they also have opinions on how you can do it better. Like a good sportsperson, a good entrepreneur finds ways to use this feedback to drive their success.

Alexandre Bilodeau spent more than eight years listening to feedback — first as he was shooting for the gold medal in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, and then as he prepared to defend it four years later. He kept listening even at the peak of his career, because he knew the value of those signals.

"Feedback is there on a daily basis when you're training, whether it's in the gym or on the slopes with your coaches," he says. "You have visual feedback and you have data. You use it to make your improvements and adjust."

Alex's coaches guided him to the top of his game and enabled him to stay there long enough to retain the title. Now, as a top business advisor, he tells entrepreneurs the value of listening closely to feedback when growing their companies.

Feedback might come in different forms: a quiet word from a valued mentor, a phone call from a customer, or even a social media post. When it arrives, a wise business owner has the humility and maturity to take notice.

Use feedback to constantly adjust

"How we react to feedback from the market and from the judges on the slopes is very similar," reflects Alex. "If we strongly believe we're doing the right thing, but the feedback from the judges is very different, then we have to adapt our way of working."

In a business context, feedback helps an entrepreneur ensure that all employees are correctly aligned with each other, working on the right things, and doing their jobs effectively. That feedback can come from working with a business mentor, or from customers and suppliers.

Some feedback will be informal, while some of it might arrive in financial reports, market research, or customer feedback surveys. Customer feedback is especially important, given the Business Development Bank of Canada's finding that 17% of entrepreneurs expected changing customer preferences and behaviours to be an important challenge this year.

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Trust what your employees tell you

One of the most valuable sources of feedback is your own employees. Entrepreneurs must learn to delegate control and responsibility, or they might not be able to scale their business. That means trusting the people who work for you to spot issues that need addressing.

"It's part of your team's job to have eyes on the ground and see what's happening out there, looking for things you didn't see coming," Alex explains.

Striving sometimes means failing

This kind of feedback can help identify areas for improvement while accelerating growth and progress, but acknowledging it is only one part of the challenge. The other is having the courage to act.

"There's definitely going to be criticism if you innovate. If you actually try to push your limits, you're going to fall sometimes," Alex says, recalling his own time on the slopes. "A lot of people would ask me when I last fell while skiing. I used to fall every day!"

Growth doesn't come from inside your comfort zone. Like Alex, you should push yourself, taking the necessary steps in response to useful feedback — even if it means making brave decisions and challenging choices.

Feedback can help you improve your products, services, and customer satisfaction, but you need to utilize it well. QuickBooks Online is a reliable and efficient accounting solution that helps you manage your finances so you can concentrate on adapting and growing your business based on the feedback you receive. Access real-time reports to help you make informed decisions anytime, anywhere, from any device. Visit QuickBooks and sign up for a free trial today.

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