An idea means nothing, its only the expression of that idea that means anything. But actually, an expression of an idea means next to nothing without commercial traction. No matter how good your idea, no matter how strong the expression of that idea, its the validation of that expression through sales that really matters.
At each point, the idea, the expression of the idea and the development of traction, people will criticise your proposition, people will throw obstacles in your path and you will find yourself asking yourself the following question: "Am I right?"
There are two things I have learned over the last year.
- Critique is a good thing, embrace it and never blindly ignore it.
- Develop personal resilience to manage critique and criticism in the right way.
There are plenty of times we have been critiqued over the last year. I have sat in meetings where our plan has been pulled apart. In the early days, that left me feeling dejected, it left me feeling low and questioning whether I had the right idea and, on a personal level, whether I could really cut it. Then, with a little time, you calm down, you think about it, and rational thought returns. Ultimately, those kind of meetings are an opportunity. An opportunity for you to build on areas of weakness, to strengthen how you describe the proposition and to learn. Moreover, there is no greater way to improve your credibility than to listen, strengthen and improve in the face of critique.
I remember being told my understanding of our route to market within health services was too weak. It was, but you don't know what you don't know. Its not always obvious you have a weakness, until someone exposes it. In response, I met with four different procurement managers, spent time with medical physics team leads and worked with those who had already successfully sold to health services. I made sure I quickly developed an intimate understanding of the sales process. When asked in future, I made sure I nailed it. That is the power and the benefit of getting as much criticism and critique as you can, as early as you can. Take the criticism early and then when it really matters, you are in a much stronger position. It also demonstrates to investors in particular, your openness to learning and working with them.
What I have learned is, as founder, it's your job to embrace all of the criticism, to listen to all of the advice, filter it, sense-check it with others and then come to an informed decision on the plan ahead. You have to consider who is giving you the advice or criticism, what is their experience in the sector, what is their personal motivation and ultimately, do they really know what they are talking about? You have to make the final judgement. Its your business, its your beliefs, your idea. Criticism and critique is a way of strengthening your proposition, but it shouldn't ever make you feel like you can't achieve your dream or put you down.
Developing personal resilience allows you to manage that criticism and critique. It means you don't come out of meetings feeling dejected, but come out feeling enthused and motivated to move forward. In the history of every successful business, there is a time when they weren't. But there is a key difference between personal resilience and irrational stubbornness. There is a key difference between strongly executing on your vision and beliefs and blindly pursuing a dream whilst ignoring the advice of others. What i've learned: take the criticism, take the critique, take the advice. Consider it, build on areas of weakness, continually evaluate and re-assess and then keep pushing. Do not give up.