AloneIn a recent poll by Small Business Guru, 66% of small business owners said they were not involved in any sort of peer group.

It’s all too easy for small business owners to feel isolated.

For those of us working out of our homes it’s just the reality of our environment. But even for those who work in an office environment and maybe even have employees, that sense of isolation is still there.

You spend so much of your time putting up a strong front for customers, employees, and family that eventually you realize you have no one to turn to for help.

And let’s face it, asking for help — it can feel like admitting failure. While completely irrational, it’s a very real dynamic.

We invest so much of ourselves into our businesses that any outside involvement can feel like a personal attack.

Our usual response to someone giving us advice? We get defensive. What does he know? They don’t understand.

We just don’t want to open ourselves up to the possibility that we need help.

Why It’s A Problem

In The Wisdom of Crowds, James Suroweicki showed statistically what many of us may find to be counterintuitive: An average group of moderately intelligent people, working together, will make better decisions than one brilliant mastermind.

Now granted there are exceptions to the rule. But if you have diversity of opinions, independence, decentralization, and a trusted model to aggregate opinions into a consensus, you will make better decisions.

Put it this way – if you’ve ever been amazed at the accuracy and relevance of a search returned on Google, well you’re witnessing the theory of the Wisdom of Crowds in action.

In the simplest of terms, talking with others helps us work through a problem.

We only have the benefit of our world view. But when you open yourself up to different view points you r introduced to a whole new world of ideas.

You’d be surprised at what new ideas will come from unexpected sources.

While the answer may not spill out of the conversations directly, you’ll find one idea leads to another which leads to another which THEN to the answer.

Coming out of a discussion with a group of people you respect, you’ll be stimulated and energized. You’ll have the courage to move forward on new ideas.

How to avoid this Mistake

Seek out a brain trust – Optimally, look for a group of your peers – other business owners. But your brain trust can be any collection of friends, family or former co-workers who’s opinion you trust & respect. If you look around and come up empty, try becoming active in your local Chamber of Commerce. You can also try any number of new social networking services that are out there as well including Jelly’s (www.workatjelly.com), Biznik (www.biznik.com) , or Business Networking International (www.bni.com) .

Be open and be honest – When reaching out to others you have to be completely honest and lay everything on the table. Don’t go into the conversation assuming people will automatically agree with your ideas. It’s hard, but try to avoid getting defensive. Detach yourself from the conversation and try to ‘monitor’ it from a different perspective — one without emotional connection to what’s being said.

Ask Question and Listen to the Answers – Before you start asking people for their opinions, you have to be ready to listen to them. Pay attention to how much of the talking you’re doing. The smart business owner is just looking to take in feedback before making any judgments. The more input you get, the information you have when you make your decision later.

Remember, you aren’t trying to win an argument or prove anything to anyone. You’re trying to learn what OTHERS think.

Make Your Decision – Whatever the problem you’re trying to solve — ultimately YOU will make the final decision. You’re the boss. So while you want to actively pursue the ideas of others you have to make your decision based on what you believe to be right.

Invariably, the contributions of others will help form our conclusions. But more often than not, they embolden our resolve and give us the emotional courage to take that next step.

photo credit: frielp

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