Why are we (am I) doing this?
The most interesting question I ever ask one of my clients. I always like to know their true motivation for why there are in this business. I can tell you the most common answer I hear. Freedom. Most entrepreneurs started their businesses because they did not have the freedom they desired in working for someone else. In many cases, they still do not have the desired freedom they coveted. They are not true entrepreneurs, they are simply self-employed. They really moved from a job for someone else to a job they created for themselves. This is a harsh reality to be digested for many business people, because the truth is, the freedom is still eluding them because the business can not survive without them. In other cases, it may be that you simply need to review what the true purpose of the business is and why it was started. What was your original intent for this business? Is it still serving that purpose? Or has it evolved? Is that evolution a good or bad thing?
Where have we been?
Looking at your operation from a historical perspective can give you a lot of insight. Have you been a risk-taker or have you played it safe? How long have you been in business? Most businesses do not make the 5 year mark and 75% of businesses do not make it to 15 years. How has your track record been as far as product sales and customer service? Has you business been cyclical or seasonal? What are the 5 biggest mistakes you have made? Have you corrected them or are they continuing? Taking a trip down nostalgia lane can be very informative as far as identifying both good points and potholes in your previous business strategy.
Where are we now?
Having the ability to pinpoint exactly where you are today is powerful. It’s why we have mile markers and exit sign numbers along our interstate highways. They allow us to know how far we have come, how far we have to go and exactly where we are along the journey. It’s always good from time to time to stop, push up the periscope and take a look around. We may be able to spot something we need to avoid or correct our course to take advantage of a large opportunity with some slight adjustments.
Where are we going?
I often ask entrepreneurs “what’s your end game”? In one expert’s view, you create a business to sell it. That is the ultimate objective. I believe it’s one objective. Some people start businesses to be generational, something they can get their kids involved in or pass on. Some people are trying to create a legacy, something that proves they were here beside a grave marker, something that will stand the test of time. Other business creators want to add to the economy and be a job creator to help others. No matter what your ultimate reason for the direction you are going, you need to gain as much clarity on it as possible. Changing the world sounds like a great idea, but don’t get caught up in buzz words and catch phrases, have clear, definite outcomes for your destination. If not, how will you know when you get there?
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