I’m sure you’ve read all the books, watched boring webinars and taken courses to help you succeed in business. You’ve talked to industry professionals, and have regular appointments with your financial advisor. Sure those are a great place to start, filled with valuable information, but improving your business should be an ongoing goal.

It’s time to look past the obvious places and get creative in your resources. Looking to unexpected sources for inspiration will give you a fresh perspective of your business and what people want, need, and consider successful practices.

You’ll learn a lot in the process of looking outside the textbooks, and just like you won’t apply every gem you learn in those webinars, all of the information you gather from these unlikely sources isn’t necessarily going to be gold. But there will be some, you just have to be willing to sift through the sand and recognise a good idea when you hear it.

Those Who Have Failed Could Help You Succeed
Your first thought probably isn’t to find advice from the people who couldn’t make it, but they are a valuable resource that you’d be foolish to overlook.

I know you’re looking for advice on what you can do to improve your business. By that same logic, wouldn’t you like to also know what NOT to do? It’s great to learn from your own mistakes, but given the opportunity wouldn’t you rather just learn those lessons from other people’s mistakes?

Find out what they could have changed given the opportunity, ideas they had that they thought would be winners but turned out total flops, how they would have spent their money differently. Maybe not all of their practices landed them in failure, learn about those and where and why things that started out good changed.

Find Strategy Opportunities in Customer Complaints
You’re never going to keep everyone happy. As long as the majority is pleased with your services or products, you’re probably doing something right. But that isn’t to say those who aren’t happy aren’t valuable to improving your business. They may in fact be some of your most valuable resources.

If someone has a genuine complaint, don’t get defensive or ignore them. Whether you made a mistake, your product failed them, or they weren’t happy with the service, there is an opportunity to learn and constantly improve. Take what they have to say seriously, and even if you don’t incorporate the ideas, they are concepts to store away and consider when the time comes for a revision or change of practice.

Your response to them will speak wonders for their impression of your business. And if it’s on social media it could reach a wide array of people, spark discussion or change someone else’s opinion of your company for the good or the bad.

Those Who Know Nothing About Your Industry May Know More Than You Think
Sounds silly, but sometimes removing your specialty from the equation could earn you insight that you would not otherwise encounter. People can get so into their niche that they forget that there are other industries striving for the same general goal. Successful business practices can transcend from one industry to the next.

Not only this, when you talk to those who aren’t familiar with what you offer, you could learn about their practices, but your own, too. You could be missing out on a whole demographic of clients if your marketing material is in technical jargon that only others in your industry can translate, even if your product could provide a benefit to those outside your circle.

Someone who knows nothing about your business will be able to look at it from a different perspective. That perspective can lead to ways to make your product or business more helpful to others. Your target demographic could include more people than you initially thought.

You Can Find Inspiration in the Truth in Fiction
You’re not always on the clock, but you can find ways to improve your business or product during your leisure time. Television, film, literature and all those things you enjoy from your couch are often purely fiction. Despite this, they can provide ideas or spark inspiration.

Fiction is often inspired by truth, so look for those kernels of truth and let someone else’s fiction become your reality. Think of all those hours spent playing Monopoly as a kid, I’m sure many a real estate mogul can give a little credit to that game for their interest in it or money sense. If your ears are always open for unexpected advice, you will find yourself learning things that you wouldn’t know otherwise.

The Executives Aren’t The Only Ones With Ideas for Improvement
This isn’t an unexpected place for advice, but an often overlooked resource. You may have the education and experience to run a business, but that isn’t to say those further down on the totem pole don’t have suggestions for streamlining or improving business. Your Board or management team probably already have regular meetings to discuss ideas, but what about your lower level employees?

Depending on your business, you could have dozens of departments or none at all. But interns, maintenance staff, even your vendors all offer a fresh point of view with different perspectives that could drastically improve productivity. They work in areas that you may never encounter, so they are able to offer insight from another direction. They may have different backgrounds and different experiences than your usual resources, but this doesn’t mean they should be discounted.

Advice is Everywhere
If you want to improve your business, you must always be on alert for advice. It can come from anywhere, and anyone. Don’t discredit someone’s feedback because they don’t run their own business. Look to unlikely sources and you’ll be a step ahead of the competition. Recognizing that advice will come from people you’d least expect to provide input will help you to constantly grow and improve.

Powered by Marion Fernandez & The Galiano Group Writing Team.