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getting the outsider's perspective

By Peter Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 08, 2009

Many small business owners, or organizational leaders working on a tight budget, wonder how they can economically get the "outsider's viewpoint" of their company without spending any money.

Simply having the input of one intelligent outsider can make a big difference to maintaining professional objectivity -- sometimes we are so close to our problems (challenges!) that we can't take a step back. What seems inexorably complex to us may seem absurdly simple to the outsider.

There is one simple way in which this goal can be attained, and it needn't cost any more than lunch once or twice a month. Cultivate a relationship with someone that you respect, and meet with them once a month (or every two weeks) to discuss your business. Make it reciprocal: during one meeting talk about your business, and at the next meeting talk about his business.

This is actually a very good practice for business owners and executives regardless of business size and budget. As busy people, we naturally spend most of our time at work and at home. The time that we spend outside of the home with friends may not be a good or productive opportunity for serious discussion of business problems. You really need to schedule one-on-one time, with a friendly outsider, for the specific purpose of discussing business challenges.

Finally, be sure to pick an outsider that doesn't have any kind of vested interest in your company, and is unlikely to do any kind of business with your company in the future. And if you choose an existing personal friend, make sure that you can count on critical and objective thinking and a free expression of ideas. If you choose as your "outsider" a friend who won't raise "the BS flag" on you (as needed), then you've lost the advantage.

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