The information we find at our fingertips online is a glorious thing-- recipes, how-tos, the exact right tool we need and product reviews. And this will often spill over into business in the form of going to the internet and to Facebook groups or forums whenever you have questions or need reassurance. This is basically crowdsourcing your business and there is a dark side to it.
Crowdsourcing your business can result in two very bad habits that will mess with the mind of an entrepreneur: not trusting your gut and analysis paralysis.
So let's talk about this first bad habit of not trusting your gut. When you repeatedly go into a group or a forum or the internet or ask all of your friends as your main place for seeking answers you are essentially saying, "I don't trust my business sense." You are abdicating your role as CEO of your business and saying, "Let's have a crowd make all of the decisions!" These people are no more qualified to run your business than you.
Second, you will give yourself analysis paralysis, which is to say you feel stuck and that there are "no right answers." Guess what? There generally aren't (legal and tax stuff is usually exempt from this, but even then you might still have multiple right answers). The unfair truth about business (and also, really, the very exciting truth) is that there are a million ways to get to success and build a business.
This doesn't mean that getting advice from other people is a no-no. Here are some ways to do it that still put you in the driver's seat.
Don't ask the wrong people the wrong questions.
There are groups I only ask certain questions about my business to. That's because I know what knowledge base I am working with. Also, sometimes people are lazy. Sometimes they aren't really don't know more about business than me. Those people cannot really help.
Ask questions with very specific answers... Not opinions.
When you ask questions from groups that have very opinion-based answers, this is likely not going to help you figure anything out in a direct manner. It also annoys people when you ask more general questions about where to find things or how to do something that is something you could very easily find the answer to with a simple Google search.
So, a good question to ask a group of makers might be: "I can't seem to find [insert specific tool or item here]. I've looked on [sites where you can show you've done some homework first], but still it's not quite right because [insert reasons why your question isn't so easily solved]." This question says, "I know what I am looking for, I've tried to look for it, but I am coming up empty-- I'm looking to people who might have come across this dilemma too, for answers." This is respectful of the people who you are posing the question to AND doesn't undermine any of your own business sense and intuition.
Ask questions that are based on "have you noticed?"
This is essentially asking "I noticed this am I crazy?" Which sometimes we will notice something happening and we want to know that it's not just us being affected. Obviously, asking this all the time is paranoia and asking these questions without a few checks of the internet first is rude to the people who you are asking the question to, but overall is very reasonable to ask of your peers.
I find this the most helpful in a Facebook ads group I am in. Because Facebook is often changing its ads interface and how ads are run, when someone says, "Have you noticed..." in there, it's helpful 1) because it's likely someone else in the group has noticed if it's a new thing and they can comment on their experience and 2) because some people aren't running ads all the time so they might not know about these new changes.
Don't ask people things if you are really looking for a "there, there, it's OK."
Sometimes what you are really asking with a question is not really a question-- it's a statement to say: "I really would like to be comforted about a vexing problem I am having right now." Rather than asking a question that isn't really going to help you much or is sucking up people's time when you aren't really going to do anything with that info, just say: "Hey guys, I've had an awful day (no need to get into the gory details). You know how it is... How do you handle difficult days?"
Resist the temptation to seek crowdsourced validation for scary decisions.
It's very easy to see why you want to do this-- because you don't want to mess up. But crowdsourcing scary decisions mitigates like no risk at all. Research, seeking counsel from trusted advisors/seasoned pros and using your own business sense, then just counting to three and jumping is usually the best game plan.
Ultimately, any "failure" in your business is always yours to own and learn from-- no one else gets to be the scape goat. It sucks, but when you know that everyone messes up in their business not just once, but repeatedly, then you can start getting used to the idea that your inevitable success is going to have to come with some hurdles.
OK... so what questions do you find unhelpful to ask groups? And when do you find them helpful? Do you have any group question etiquette?
If you are like, this is great but I still feel like things arise with customers that could go any number of ways and I need some solid advice! WELL, you are in luck. #ahasmember Danielle of The Merriweather Council just released "Handmade Shop Owner's Communication Kit" so any time a customer service communication question comes up, you're prepared with advice from a seasoned pro. This isn't an affiliate link or anything. I've read the book and it covers a lot of the questions I see in forums, but what I love that Danielle does is she tells you why this answer will give a certain outcome and another a different outcome-- and let's you decide the path you want to go down. It's a much better path to get someone to walk you through the process with thought and then lets you make the decision.