If you're an entrepreneur like me, your mind never turns off. You're constantly seeking new ways to improve your business and yourself. So, what does it really take to turn something you've made into a company with staying power and apply that natural drive to scaling it? Use these seven time-tested questions and spend some time answering them. Use this process as the catalyst to dig down and build a business that will stand the tests of time.
Question #1: Do I remember why this all started?
Your company's origin story will help define your position and brand now and far into the future. It defines both who you are as an entrepreneur and the passions that drove you to make the bold move of building your own business. Focus on the moment you realized what would make your business work. What's the story behind your success? By making your product or service into a vivid and relatable story, you're on your way to building a loyal customer base and forging a clear niche in the marketplace.
Question #2: Is the customer's pain my pain?
In the end, a business concept usually comes down to solving a problem or adding value to someone's life. Imagine your customer is in the room with you. She's giving you a rundown of what she needs and asks if your product or service can help. How would you answer? What's your elevator pitch? You need to grab her attention with a clear understanding of the problem, and provide an explanation that details exactly how your product or service solves the issue at hand.That's your elevator pitch. By imagining--and practicing on--a real person, you can make your pitch conversational, compelling and tailored to your audience.
Question #3: Would I work for me?
Maybe you aren't at the point to hire your first employee, and won't be for some time. But even if you are wearing all the hats in your business, it's good to keep in mind what you're looking for in the long run. Eventually, who you hire will come to define your business, just as you do. So hire right by starting early, and by looking within. Even if you are the only employee, be the team member you would want to work with. Cultivate the qualities that breed success. Focus on your customers instead of your ego. When you're ready to hire, put your company ethics in writing and use them to help find the right team members.
Question #4: Do I know where I'll be in a year? In five? In ten?
What's your dream destination? What is your roadmap to get there? Having clear goals and objectives in mind will keep your company traveling on the right path. Make your company a journey with a winning destination by thinking big now and charting the smaller milestones on the way.
Question #5: How do you stay persistent when the cards are stacked against you?
In the life of most businesses, there are moments of great failure and even defeat. In the beginning, a new business is exciting. It's the fulfillment of a long-held vision. The inevitable bumps on the road are jarring, but don't let a rut turn into an impasse. Let your failures show you the next way forward. Keep your core concept, strength and passion intact, but be ready for sudden shifts. Think of your business as a building that is up to code for earthquakes and fires. Always have expectations for the best, and a plan for the worst so you are prepared to withstand whatever comes your way.
Question #6: Are you truly better than your competitors?
Usually, you find your company's secret sauce when you encounter the problems of the previous question. When all the fluff is stripped away and even when the chips are down. What defines you, your team, your product, and your company? This is your secret sauce. It's a bit different than your product positioning because it includes the intangibles that give your company mojo. But each ingredient in your secret sauce matters. It's what will continue to define your company from the inside out.
Question #7: Does it need to be me who does this?
Even when things are going well, building a company is rough. When you've worked a 14-hour-day and you're at a convention center in Vegas at 2 AM, missing your home, your family or your bed, you might think, "Why in the world did I ever build this company?" Have your answer ready. Turn your answer into an entrepreneur's manifesto, and reference it whenever you feel discouraged.
What are some questions you've asked yourself that have directly impacted the success of your business?