Eighteen months ago when I first started my company, guesterly, everything felt brand spankin’ new. And while I also felt like an absolute novice, a friend told me something that stuck: “You are the number one expert in your business. No one in the whole world will know more than you do about your business.” It was exactly the confidence boost I needed…and words I may have taken a little too literally.
As an entrepreneur, I talk to people about my business and product a lot — from my seatmate on a flight to meetings with potential partners, investors and advisors. In fact, it’s the core of my role in the company: I sell people on guesterly and share our mission and purpose. But after the first few dozen times I shared our story or software, I found that I could almost predict the feedback I would receive. The more I started to hear the same exact ideas, the more I started to say things like:
- “We’ve thought of that.”
- “I get asked that a lot.”
- “That’s the number one thing people tell us.”
These responses — all variations of “I already know that" — slipped out unbidden, like silk. Why was that my knee-jerk reaction? Was I trying to prove that I was “smart”? Show I was on top of it? Say their idea or question wasn’t original?
The answer, of course, is all of the above and more. But here’s the thing: When I responded like a know-it-all, the excited smiles of friendly acquaintances dimmed. Investors and advisors raised their eyebrows. At pitch nights and discussion groups, the flood of ideas and feedback would slow to a trickle.
No matter how I looked at it, my responses didn’t bring anything valuable to the conversation: they were defensive and dismissive.