Sometimes we need to hear it.

If the emergency sirens start sounding that severe weather is near, perhaps it’s time to set aside your plans for the family picnic. Heck, if the weather forecaster is telling you that there’s better than a fifty percent chance of thunderstorms, you might be better off trading in the picnic blanket for tickets at the nearest movie theater. In both cases you want to hear one thing, but you need to hear something else.

Consulting with your network can go the same way.

Your network can be a great source of advice, recommendation, and expert opinion. After all, it’s made up of people who have taken an active interest in you and your success. The challenge is to be willing to listen when they tell us, not what we want, but what we need to hear.

Maybe you’ve decided on a new target market. You’re pretty excited about it. You want to hear how easy it will be to break into this sector. You need to hear what your connections in that industry think. Maybe that  class you were about to teach has to be certified by their national association first. That would certainly save you some embarrassment.

Perhaps you come up with a new product for the market. You want to hear how great it is. You need to hear what problems it has so you can fix them and really be ready to sell — unless you like angry customer service calls.

It’s possible that you’ve gotten tired of your logo. It’s time to rebrand and bring a new face to your business. You want to hear how the new look will drive new customers to your door. You need to hear how the new look might drive your old customers away.

For many of us who are solo-preneurs or have very small businesses, we don’t have an official board of advisors. That can lead to some lonely decision making. That’s when we can look to our closest network connections to be an extra sanity check on the directions we are taking — an ad hoc board, if you will.

One caveat to this recommendation, though: Remember that your network can only advise you. You are the ultimate authority and must take ultimate responsibility. I was reminded recently that truly great innovators sometimes have to go against the established wisdom. Ask for advice, certainly, but at the end of the day, if you still believe that you are right, make your decisions accordingly.

You may still get what you want, but by consulting with your closest connections, you may also avoid some of the obvious pitfalls.

And we pretty much all need that.

Image by Cecile Graat