Podcast: How to Know What You Don't Know

The SCORE Small Business Success Podcast features interviews with the best and brightest in the world of small business, covering topics such as business plans, financing, marketing, human resources, SEO, social media and more. In this podcast, SCORE mentors chat with Bonnie Seitzinger about preventing problems before they happen.

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Dennis Zink: Bonnie, let’s start off with a question that may be obvious to some people.  Why should business owners want to know or learn what they don’t know?

Bonnie Seitzinger: In my view, this is one of the key factors in growing a business.  As business owners, we want to prevent problems before they happen.  I use the analogy the way we treat our bodies, we eat well, we take supplements and exercise as preventative measures to developing long-term health conditions, it’s the same with our businesses.  We need to learn as much as we can about what it is we do not know so we can prevent problems before they occur and take action to change things before the environment or other factors changes around us. 

We can’t know everything with absolute certainty, but we can feel confident about certain things.  Now I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the majority of businesses fail because business owners have a mindset of knowing more than they really know, whether the problem is undercapitalization, lack of quality or even lack of human resource knowledge, all examples of things we may have felt we knew but perhaps we were not open enough to learn what we didn’t know. 

There are many important principles to sustaining and growing a business.  It’s human nature to gravitate to learn about what interests us.  We don’t always take the steps to learn what we don’t know beyond our interests.  A common example of this is business owners generally stay technical in their industry,  Their passion, background and how they got started in business may be what they concentrate on; that may however not have them up to speed in other aspects of their business.  That brings about the need to know what you don’t know. 

There’s a learning model developed in the 1970’s and it describes the four stages of learning, going from incompetence to competence.  The first stage, unconscious competence, is not knowing what you don’t know.  The next stage is conscious competence, which is knowing you have a deficit and knowing the value of developing skills to address that deficit.  What we want to talk about today is both the not knowing as well as developing the skills to be in the know. 

Dennis Zink: Where should someone start when they decide to learn more about what they don’t know?

Bonnie Seitzinger: We have a broad range of possibilities.  What I always like to see is a mindset of continuous improvement.  One of the success principles in Jack Canfield’s book refers to commit to constant and never-ending improvement.  This never-ending improvement can be in many forms, in both tangible and intangible ways. 

Today it’s easier than ever to absorb the latest leadership and management thinking as well as so many other business topics, from finance to HR to process improvement.  It’s all out there; YouTube, totally no cost; there are such fabulous books read by their authors.  We have TED talks and university lectures, all online.  

Download the full interview above or listen to the podcast to learn more about knowing what you don't know.

About the Author

About the Podcast Guest: Bonnie Seitzinger

Small Business Success Podcast

Bonnie Seitzinger is a CPA, business coach with Focused Management Services and a SCORE mentor.  After years of navigating the waters as a technology segment operations leader with a global consulting firm, Bonnie pivoted from big business to small business.  Bonnie received her MBA from Lehigh University and her involvement with Lehigh’s Small Business Development Center planted the seeds to grow small businesses to be the best they can be. 

Bonnie believes in the simple yet powerful mantra you get what you focus on.  In working with small businesses since 2002, Bonnie understands how to grow small businesses from just surviving to thriving.  Through rigorous focus on well-defined business outcomes, she succeeds at what she does.