I'm not very good at taking criticism... probably like many other people. And once I received a piece of criticism which has stayed with me for an embarrassingly long time. About 15 years or thereabouts.
I was out at supper and we were all chatting away over food and wine, when someone mentioned a business they were starting. As the evening passed, their idea rattled around my head. I moved next to them in order to hear more. We talked about it at length - it was exciting and I threw all sorts of questions, thinking, and so on at the newly minted entrepreneur.
Later on I was cornered by another guest - a close friend - who criticised me roundly for giving free advice, saying that if I was that excited by the concept I should charge them. Why give away ideas that were effectively my stock in trade? It devalued them and me. This stung and rankles even today. But it made me realise two things very clearly.
Generosity is one of the most important aspects of business that there is. Yet few people ever refer to it. It is impossible to calculate the kindness, open-heartedness and honesty that we have received as we have grown Lola. From people we know well, to those we hardly know at all. I am sure most other companies and business people would say the same.
This generosity takes the form of introductions to people, new services that might be useful, giving a helpful step up, opening a door, suggesting a new team member, or passing on the whisper of an emergent trend. Yet we never really acknowledge this commercial kindness that makes the wheels of business run more smoothly.
The second point that we often mention to many of the start-ups we are priviledged to work is that everyone wants a new venture to succeed. Everyone. (Excepting perhaps your competitors.) So the generosity of spirit surrounding that emergent venture is enormous. You, your family, your friends want you to succeed. So too do your suppliers, your new customers, your bank, your professional advisers. They truly want you to do well. Harnessing this generosity and the energy it creates can provide a rich springboard to growth.
If you sat quietly and thought through those in your network who had been generous to you in your role this week, doubtless the list would be surprising in its complexity and breadth. And if you then thought through those to whom you have given to, does it match up with the former?
So give generously... don't listen to the nay-sayers or those without the time, energy or willingness to help.