We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

The biggest impediment to a small business’s success is they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s not a failure of intelligence, just that we all have blind spots. After all, there are things we simply don’t know or maybe even cannot know. If we knew what it was we didn’t know, we would read books, or we would hire people that do know these things. But since they are blind spots, we really can’t fill in those gaps.


Of course, there are also some things that are more than blind spots. There are some things that people refuse to see. And maybe we all do that to one degree or another mentally.

The things that we’re blind about most often in small businesses are things that have to do with ourselves. We are objective when it comes to other people, and we judge them on their actions. But we judge ourselves mostly based on our intentions, which is probably a bit easier of a standard to meet. We’re really not objective about ourselves. In other words, maybe you’re not the leader that you think you are in your business, so getting some feedback from your team along those lines is a terrific thing.

Another thing that people have trouble with is evaluating any family members in your business. As small business owners, many of us have husbands or wives, sons or daughters, etc who work with us, and we really have to be objective. Do these people really have what it takes to lead the business now and in the future? Getting some objective third party feedback in this area is very helpful, too. Likewise, it’s a good idea to get feedback on any long-term employees that do a good job some days, but maybe not so much on other days. We tend to have a really hard time evaluating these long-term employees because we think of them very much like family, and we really resist the idea that they’re not cutting the mustard anymore and maybe they need to move on.

We often have blind spots about technology. Particularly those of us that are aging tend to struggle sometimes with new technology. We’re kind of married to our old systems, but as our companies get bigger and more complex, we need new and different and better systems to manage the people, technology, and processes, etc.

How do you learn what you don’t know?

You’ve got to get outside. If you stay within your four walls, you’re going to be basically imprisoned by that which you don’t know. You have to carve out time for learning. Take a class, go to a university, get some new training, challenge yourself, and challenge your thought processes. Read. I know everybody says, “I don’t have time to read.” But with all of the audio books that you can subscribe to, the podcasts that are out there, you don’t have to actually read to reap the benefits of reading. You can just listen. You can just drive down the highway and pick up a wealth of new information and new ideas.

Talk to other business people, whether they’re in your industry or not. Networking is a great way to learn perspectives from other people. And, of course, that word perspective in itself is important. Listening, reading, andnetworking with other people challenges those perspectives and gives us new vistas about which to think and look.

And of course, the best way to learn what we don’t know is through peer groups. I know we’re biased here, but we can’t recommend them enough. So if you have a chance to get into a peer group, take it. It’ll be one of the best business decisions you have ever made. If you are an auto shop owner and are interested in learning more about our Bottom-Line Impact Groups, please call us at 800-755-0988.

I would love to hear your thoughts about knowing what you don’t know and how to get around some those blind spots. Please comment and share your techniques with us!

Written by RLO Training