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Who is Your Sounding Board?

Updated on January 11, 2012
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Ed has been an entrepreneur and business owner/start-up generator for 15 years. He has also been a shotgun coach!

You Really Should have Someone to Bounce Ideas Off

If you have been a leader in an organization, you didn't get there by not having some vision, some idea as to where the organization needed to go. Expressing ideas without review is often not the best process. The Law of Unintended Consequences will take hold and you will wish you had taken one more step defining your concept for change! Spouses are great for bouncing ideas off of, ONLY if they have some idea what business.

Some of the funniest and most notorious mistakes in business involved translations into other languages or cultures. In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan Come alive with the Pepsi Generation came out in Chinese as Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the grave.

Frank Perdue’s slogan It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken sounds much more interesting in Spanish. A photo of Perdue with one of his chickens appeared on billboards all over Mexico with a caption that explained: It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused (or) It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate. Coors translated its slogan, Turn it loose, into Spanish, where it was read as Suffer from diarrhea. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux. When Braniff translated a slogan touting its upholstery, Fly in leather, it came out in Spanish as Fly naked. The Microsoft ad slogan, as translated into Japanese: If you don’t know where you want to go, we’ll make sure you get taken.

You really don't want to join the ranks of the people above, so choose a person or group that will respond to your ideas honestly and without regard to "hurting your feelings" or being afraid you may respond with indignation or a firing line!

When Ideas Come

Ideas come to me at all times of day and night. Some are darn good ideas and I try my best to write them down immediately - or they go away with the wind. I do keep a pen next to the bed - not to write, this one has a recorder built in and I just record two or three sentences so when I wake up in the morning it should remind me of the idea.

Getting a group together for brainstorming to try to develop ideas on how to take a new product to market, or how to use a product in a new way, find a new market can lead to a lot of ideas with the right group. The problem comes with fleshing out the ideas to make them into something workable and financially sustainable.

Who Do You Need

In evaluating who this person that you are going to bounce ideas off of, make some genuine considerations.

  • Confidentiality is a key. The person you are going to confide in must know how to keep a secret and be willing to meet with you to discuss your ideas in such a way that it won't affect your position. Business relationships outside your own office can work well, but only with most trusted associates, probably not in the same line of work.
  • Honesty is a must. This goes back to how the person must feel when talking with you. Not a subordinate, they will always either suck up or feel a sense of your will must be done. The person can be a relative not involved in your business - even a spouse - but be careful there.
  • Intelligent, even beyond your own level. It is good to be challenged, particularly on new ideas. Mentors, friends that have been in business, parents, that have a positive intent and can share experiences can be great assets. Sometimes you must work a bit to find this right person.
  • Your Best Interests at Heart. This is the toughest part of finding the right person to be your sounding board. Finding an individual without preconceived notions, quid pro quot ideas, their own agenda, is very hard to do. There is only a limited ability to vet individuals prior to sharing with them. Don't be afraid to cut them off as quickly as you brought them on.

Once you find the person, use them regularly. Be sure their opinions are noted and considered and get that information back to them. Reward them with dinner or a nice way of patting them on the back in thanks for their support. It goes a long way to building a relationship that will be needed more and more as your career improves and you go further up the ladder. Be sure to keep it fun too.

The Inventurist


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