How to handle criticism as an entrepreneur

If you own a small enterprise owner who puts a lot of emphasis on growth, then you’re probably working every day on branding your business. It’s all about putting your name out there and getting people to talk about your brand, whether in the press, or via social media, or by pure word of mouth. The message matters a lot – every single positive word you hear about your company is a huge boon, and every negative word hurts a lot.

That latter point can be a salient one for many entrepreneurs. Dealing with criticism is never easy on a personal level, and when you’re being badmouthed in a way that hurts your finances as well as your feelings, it’s even worse.

Unfortunately, some people love to talk trash, and the advent of the internet and social media only accelerate this process. If someone wants to speak negatively about your company, they have countless outlets to do so.

How to respond is up to you. On an emotional level, you might be tempted to go on an angry tirade and strike back against those who criticize you, but that might not be wise. Here are a few tips on handling criticism maturely and responsibly.

Take the high road
The last thing you want to do is lash out angrily, responding to people’s attacks with attacks of your own. This will make you look petty, and it will only further alienate customers who already appear to be turned off. The better approach is to be straightforward and honest with customers who criticize you. Entrepreneur Magazine advises being careful about deleting people’s comments on social media, which can lead people to paint your enterprise in a negative light.

Look for constructive advice
Sometimes critics can actually have valuable advice, even if they frame it in a rude way. If a restaurant patron doesn’t like the flavor of your food, or a store customer finds your location ugly and unappealing, think about what they have to say. You might not like to hear complaints, but they might help you improve your business.

Accentuate positives
When someone bashes your product, one way to respond is to deflect their negative words and talk about something instead. Someone doesn’t like your burger? Well, you have tons of other great sandwiches they might love. Complaints about your Sunday hours? Don’t worry – you’re open much later Monday. Don’t worry about the negative stuff. You have plenty of good qualities to show off instead.

Use social media as a PR tool
When people criticize your business, you can use your social media accounts as a way to control the message. You never want to lash out directly at people, but you can use your Facebook and Twitter accounts to post general messages that explain, justify or clarify why you do things a certain way. Respect people’s opinions, but show your side of the story as well.

No one likes being criticized, but some responses are better than others. What do you do when someone attacks your business?


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