The best way to stay competitive is to actively attempt to challenge your preconceived notions. Easier said than done, right? When things are going well, we’re tempted to rest on our laurels. Whether we realise it or not, we become comfortable.
It’s when things aren’t going well that we rack our brains for new directions to take our business in. But to stay competitive, you need to be hungry. It’s more important than ever that you question everything you’re doing.
You need to find ways to challenge yourself.
Questions on your mind should include: “How can I improve my business?” “Where is my industry headed?” “Am I prepared for setbacks?” “Am I prepared for the changes in technology that will inevitably come?” “Am I prepared for America’s changing demographics?”
For many of us, asking these kinds of questions is difficult. We might not like the answers. Becoming an entrepreneur requires a certain kind of confidence and ego. In other words, more often than not, we think we know it all already. But your business will benefit immensely from your willingness to open your eyes to the future.
That’s why you must surround yourself with people, situations and reading material that challenges you. I rely on the strategies below to help me out.
1. Hang out with people whose age differs from yours
My two daughters challenge me to think differently more than any other people I know. The conversations we have make me reflect upon the assumptions I hold, because our opinions differ widely so often. I have a mentee who helps challenge me in the same thing. Eric Ruiz, who is also in his 20s, opens my mind by introducing me to the technology he’s using, the business podcasts he’s listening to and what’s on his mind.
In the past week alone, I have read multiple articles in publications including The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal that have caused me to reevaluate my business plan for 2015. Seek out media outlets whose perspective differs from yours. We all have authors and magazines whose point of view we already agree with. Spending your time reinforcing your point of view is the opposite of challenging yourself.
3. Ask your customers what you can be doing better
Trust me, they’ll tell you. Stop assuming that you know what they want. What do they lack? What do they wish were different? What could be better?
4. Use the latest technology
The technology available to us today is so vast and so quickly changing, simply pondering how to use it can be overwhelming. Get over your fears and learn by doing. Play with it. Experiment with it. Whether you personally embrace new technology or not is irrelevant. Inevitably, some of your customers do, and even more will in the future. Don’t force yourself into the position of having to catch up.
5. Hire people who are smarter than you
Give them power and let them run with it. I guarantee that they will challenge you. Don’t hire people that are going to agree with you all of the time. In the same vein, when a smart hire does challenge you – let them!
Making a concerted effort to challenge yourself will inspire you and help prepare your business for the future. As a result, you will be able to lead your company with the confidence that you’re making good decisions – because you are.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.