Death is a certainty. Even for a newborn. Just as criticism is certain for ideas in an infancy stage.
Criticism isn’t always bad. In fact, if executed properly, it can be very beneficial. Fear of criticism won’t make you, your idea or your business better. Feedback can provide areas to improve upon, but there may be a time when a filtration system is necessary.
Many great ideas were first faced with great backlash.
Premature Baby Incubators: The doctor who created the baby incubator was initially rejected by the US medical community. According to Medscape.com, Dr. Couney created a preemie display (25 cents per entry) in order to fund the facility he used to treat over 8,000 preemie babies. While originally highly critiqued by his colleagues, Couney’s facility ended up saving over 80% of the preemies treated in his facility.
The Telephone: When Alexander Graham Bell pitched the telephone patent to Western Union, he was turned down. See one portion of the company’s critique:
“The idea is idiotic on the face of it. Furthermore, why would any person want to use this ungainly and impractical device when he can send a messenger to the telegraph office and have a clear written message sent to any large city in the United States?”
The Personal Computer: The founder of Digital Equipment Corp stated, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,”. Additionally, Jobs and Wozniak were rejected by Hewlett-Packard five times before they decided to go out on their own.
Online Shopping: A concept most of us couldn’t live without, was heavily and publicly criticized. An example of this appeared in Time magazine, ‘The Futurists: Looking Toward A.D. 2000,’
“Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop — because women like to get out of the house, like to handle merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.”
The iPhone: Bloomberg writer Matthew Lynn stated, “The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks. In terms of its impact on the industry, the iPhone is less relevant.” TechCrunch writer Seth Porges inked a piece, “We Predict the iPhone Will Bomb.”
In a most crucial stage of a company’s life cycle, criticism can help or hinder.
Any time a business begins to show demand, the critics will appear. It can be seen today for revolutionary companies like Tesla, Beyond Meat and other companies that are thinking and performing outside of the box. Some of our society’s most beloved brands have faced critics that attempt to tear down what they’ve built.
Until recently, the BBB had given Ritz Carlton, Disneyland, Google, and Starbucks D and F ratings. At the same time, Hamas (the terrorist group) had an A-, and Stormfront (another terrorist group), had an A+. But that’s a whole other conversation for another article.
Examples, like those previously mentioned, are often due to profiteer organizations in the space, encouraging criticism. While harmful, they are simply a vehicle, not the source. Think of it as a wildfire. The businesses are the forest. The critics are the fire. The profiteer organizations are the gasoline. There is a segment of the population that thrives on criticizing others. While fire will always be a threat to the forest, when a wildfire breaks out, who supports throwing on gasoline?
Just like the IRS takes a piece of your lottery jackpot… the critics will want to take a piece of your success.
Possibly the biggest signal that criticism is never-ending, is the example of critics at the success stage. (In my observance, mostly from those that have not been successful themselves.) I’ve had friends sell their companies for over $100 Million and heard criticism about them similar to:
“Yea, but she only owned xx% when they sold.”
“But he worked so hard for 10 years and now what is he going to do?”
If you listen around you, you’ll notice how often it happens, and hopefully realize how ridiculous it is.
He is a really successful businessman.
Critic: “Yes, but I heard he never sees his kids and his marriage is struggling.”
That’s a really nice house.
Critic: “Sure, but they’re probably in a lot of debt.”
She got into Med School!
Critic: “I don’t know why anyone would want to go to school that long.”
It’s so cool. They were on Shark Tank last night!
Critic: “You know his last business failed, right?”
Whether intentional or not, a portion of our society ALWAYS has something negative to say. That becomes dangerous in today’s culture, where any thought can immediately be publicly broadcast and permanently ingrained in internet history. #nofilter?
While the majority of people would never take a bat to someone’s knees, many are doing just that to businesses using garbage criticism on the internet. Ask any restaurant owner, print shop or bakery. Heck… I have even seen some downright nasty 1-star reviews for churches!
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” ― Winston Churchill
If you’re a critic by nature, here are some things to be aware of before you take to your favorite soap box:
As people succeed more, they also fail more. Even if a company has a 97% satisfaction rating, with 10,000 customers, they are going to have 300 people out there that weren’t happy.
No company can control its quality 100%. As you scale, you have less control over each element of the business. Processes and systems can help prevent gaps, but especially during fast growing periods, things are bound to break. Offer constructive criticism, instead of spewing hate all over the internet. And when a company like Wendy’s has a finger show up in it’s chili once in 50 years (a claim later proven to be falsified), give them a break.
People, ideas and companies benefit from constructive criticism. As the backbone of our economy and a large contributor to job creation, try giving feedback in a manner that is helpful.
Posting a one-star review on Yelp because you didn’t get your margarita fast enough, is no better than posting a nude picture of an ex-girlfriend because they broke up with you.
It takes education and intuition to read between the lines.
It takes integrity and empathy to be supportive.
It takes courage and vision to be a creator.