The First Order of Business

Why Great Organizations Rely on Objective Feedback

This article is the first in a three-part series about business assessments and the importance of getting objective feedback on your business.

Opinions are like elbows: Everybody has one. Therefore it’s generally a good idea to follow my grandfather’s motto: “I’m entitled to my opinion, and you’re entitled to ignore it.” But to decide to ignore it, you first need to hear it.

Honeybunch was a Maverick, Not an Ostrich

My grandfather, who we called Honeybunch, was a WWII merchant marine and later a successful international business man, breaking cultural and commercial barriers long before it was hip to do so. The success of this under-educated Italian boy from the Lower East Side to vice president of a major chemical corporation was undoubtedly due in part to ignoring the opinions of the day: He was rejected from joining the Navy, so he joined the Merchant Marines (a much more dangerous job). He was one of the first businessmen to engage the Chinese in trade, back in the 60s and 70s. He even staved off disability and death from natural disasters, accidents and cancer…all because he refused to accept the status quo and conventional wisdom.

But Honeybunch wasn’t a lone ranger. He bucked the system, but he didn’t ignore it. While he sometimes did things before he knew they were “impossible” to do, he almost always made decisions after he did his research and solicited feedback.

Being open to information, but then judiciously sifting through it, resulted in great success in his life.

Applying Honeybunch’s philosophy is paramount for business owners. That’s not to say that you have to follow anyone’s advice or take anyone’s opinions to heart—indeed, industry disrupters have all shirked conventional wisdom and have repeatedly accomplish “the impossible.”

But it is always sage to understand the lay of the land before you continue your trek. Just as you would pack for a trip to Alaska differently than you would for a trip to the Caribbean, you must make the right decisions for your business based on where you want to end up.

Getting information and feedback is crucial to making good decisions in your business, especially when you are trying to solve a problem or address a specific issue. Without it, you’re doing business in a vacuum, which rarely works.

When Was Your Last Business Assessment?

Assessments are a part of life. Kids face regular assessments in school to determine if they are meeting milestones. At your annual checkup, your doctor is assessing your health. Even your car gets regularly assessed. You bring it into the mechanic to verify everything is working correctly and as efficiently as possible.

Incredibly, many business owners do not take the time to give their businesses the same level of scrutiny their mechanics give their cars, or they themselves get from their doctors. They figure if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

This kind of thinking always reminds me of a (slightly morbid) story: Completely unaware of the irony, a friend once told me that a close relative of a mutual acquaintance, a young man in “perfect health,” had “dropped dead” while exercising. Clearly, if no foul play was involved (none was suspected), he wasn’t in the “perfect health” everyone seemed to think he was, was he?

I am not saying that without a business assessment your business is going to fail. But for sure, if you want to make sure everything is working at its optimum and to catch issues before they become problems, then you should be doing a business assessment on a regular basis. Invest in your business and yourself.

An objective business assessment can help you identify ineffectiveness, missed opportunities and potential liabilities. Regular business assessments mitigate unnecessary risks. They allow you to fix issues before they become problems, find places to streamline your operations and so much more.

A good business assessment helps you plan for the future, and avoid mistakes from the past. It allows you to grow constructively, because you have the right systems in place that allow you to scale with minimal growing pains.

All of this allows you to focus on your core business. You know, the reason you went into business in the first place.

When Should You Have a Business Assessment?

If you’re like most business owners, the answer is probably “now.”

This is not something you can afford wait on, until you get through your to do list, cull through your email, put out the next fire. This is especially true if you are struggling with specific aspects of your business or there are parts of your business that are driving you kind of nuts.

Why suffer through those headaches when you can get someone to help you figure out the problem?

Other than that, with the changing pace of business, it makes sense to do a complete business assessment at least once a year. However, do not limit yourself to doing one only once a year. There are certain aspects of your business that demand constant attention, like customer demands and marketing trends. These are easy and often fun to do. Your business operations, though, is what needs a thorough annual review.

Can You Really Afford One?

The pat answer is, of course, “Can you really afford to NOT have one?” And to that I would say, no, you can’t afford to not have one.

Regular objective (external) feedback is crucial for businesses, especially small businesses. However, a business assessment does not have to be prohibitively expensive, and depending on what you need, can be easily affordable. There are some aspects you can do yourself, and others that require professional or experienced folks. The fact is that you will likely need to pay someone to give you the feedback you need to make the best decisions you can for your business and yourself.

In upcoming articles, I will discuss what to look for in a business assessment and where to find someone who can provide you with the best advice possible.

 This article was first published on Pulse at


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