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10 questions for business growth

Posted on December 2, 2011

Our emotions have a tendency to obscure the obvious. We think we can build a successful business through tenacity and desire, fortitude and sweat. We may see our dreams through blinders or those famous rose-colored glasses. Well that may be true to a point but there are other less emotional issues that have to be taken into consideration before, during and after we start our enterprises.

The following are twenty questions to ask yourself when it comes to your business, its growth and success.

1.    Are you undercapitalized?
Check, or do, your company budget and projections now! Be realistic, even conservative or you will run the risk of running out of operating capital before your dream has run its course. You either have the money, have the means to get the money, or you shouldn’t be in business. Buying your self a job rather than securing a career and a solid investment is all too common. The entrepreneur who struggles to make ends meet year after year can attest to that. Don’t spend all your money on fancy offices, stores and surroundings only to find that there’s no money left to operate. You’re better off having the money to get things done rather than being done because you misspent what you had and then found yourself under funded.

2.    Do you have written short and long-term goals?

Both business and personal goals are very important. They should intertwine. Take the time to write out your personal and business goals by month, ninety-days, six month, one year, five years and so on. If you don’t have a destination and a map, it’s tough to get there. We hear the call for goal setting so often that it almost becomes trite. However it works. Most successful businesses and individuals are very succinct in where, how, and when they want to get to their goals. The best way to keep a record of your progress is by writing your objectives down.

3.    Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
Ask your self, “Who am I?” Are you an entrepreneur, technician, manager or artist? Do you know if you have a behavioural type that likes to get the task completed no matter what or perhaps you’re someone who enjoys mixing with all kinds of people? Maybe you would rather keep things on an even keel and be “steady as she goes” or you’re one of those detail people who likes to make sure every thing is perfect. Do you know why you do things? What moves you into action, is it the quest for a nice return on your investment, fame, the need to help people, the desire to make things more beautiful? Maybe you’re looking for power and advancement or on a quest for truth and knowledge. All these factors enter into your strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if you’re a detail person, who wants a nice investment return, and not a mixer, don’t put yourself into a sales role if you can help it. You would be better off finding someone else to do that function while you go of to figure out the books and inventory. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and admitting them can save you a lot of problems and make you very successful.

4.    Do you have a plan and method for expansion?

Know where you want to go, grow and how you’re going to do it. Understand the physical, geographical, competitive and staffing parameters. Realize what got you to where you are and then be totally realistic about your expansion. Do a complete analysis of your physical (plant, stores, transportation vehicles, equipment, etc.) capabilities and the pressure expansion will put on them. And can you afford it? Look at the area you serve currently and the new areas you want to serve. Will you be able to do it efficiently and effectively without jeopardizing your existing business? Does the new market need what you are selling and/or is it already served, even over served, by your competition? Do you have the staff to substantiate expansion and/or will you be able to get additional qualified people to support it? Or will you be overtaxing your existing staff?

5.    Do you have a strategic plan?

Understand your competition, your customer base, your niche, the market, how you interface with the economy and what it means to your growth. Do the research, find developmental help and make sure your data is kept up to date. All the facts you need are out there. And much of it is in your own files! Have a method for retrieving it easily. The strategic plan your business needs is not a static document. On the contrary it’s a living document that has to be updated in a scheduled manner. Make sure all those whose input is needed have time to review it and make changes before the next strategic meeting. If you’re business is you and only you have a “meeting with yourself” about your strategic plan and take it seriously. Believe me your competition is.

6.    Do you keep abreast of your industry, market and technology?

Read industry and business publications and websites to find out what’s new and happening in your industry. It better to know what’s changing BEFORE it hit’s the market than to be left trying to catch up. Find out as much as you can about E-commerce and the internet and how it is or will be affecting your business. Go to trade shows. Make sure you join the appropriate industry associations. Become an integral put of your industry.

7.    Do you manage your schedule well?

Not time management. You can’t manage time it’s going to pass no matter what you do. You can only manage your schedule. Do you know how to prioritize to maximize your schedule? Can you realistically look at the tasks at hand and categorize them into urgent, important and routine bins, both literally and figuratively. Do you keep a daily planner with you at all times during your business day? Do you make sure that you leave enough time between meetings? Are you cognizant of the geographic distances between sales calls or meetings? Are you aware of your peak performance times of the day and schedule accordingly? It’s no joke when people ask if you’re a morning person or afternoon person. Some people are better at one type of task in the morning and another type later in the day. Do you leave yourself enough time to prepare for meetings, sales calls, projects, etc.? Do you manage your schedule so that you have time to relax? Poor schedule management can quickly lead to burnout.

8.    Are you able to delegate?

It’s the only way to really grow. It enables you to work on your business as opposed to in your business. The person who can’t delegate will always be stuck in a dead end job, even if they own the company. Thinking that you have to do everything will mean that you WILL do everything? What good is that? No one should do it all. Remember the strengths and weaknesses we discussed earlier? If you’re doing something that you’re not proficient at because you can’t delegate, who gains? Not the business, not you and not the other people in the company. Even if you are good at what you do, how are you going to advance if you can’t teach those around you so that you can move up the latter?

You should periodically review your goals and objectives so that you clearly understand how delegating will enable you to reach your desired outcome. Being able to delegate, with the understanding that those you delegate to may make mistakes just like you did. Delegation has another long-term benefit besides growth for both you and the person you delegate to, and that is a more stress free environment and life.

9.    Do you believe in yourself and your dream?

If you really, really don’t believe that this is your dream get out. Your dream gives you the intestinal fortitude to keep going. If you view your business as a nightmare than wake up and walk away. Business should be about dreams, hope, fun and ultimately contentment. Too often business brings on stress, anxiety, resentment, and countless other negative thoughts and feelings. Why put up with them? There’s too much opportunity for the good things in life out there in the business world to let your self be taken down by the negatives. Look realistically at what your business career is costing in the commodities that money can’t buy health, contentment, happiness and love. If your life is being robbed buy a career gone bad think seriously about your options and do something about it.

10.    Do you have one customer who is so large that if they leave so does your business?

This happens so much in business it’s pathetic. Before you know it, that one customer owns you. You meet their demands or you’re finished. Even if you do meet their demands you could be finished. Being a slave to a customer so large that you must immediately react to their every whim can be heavily detrimental to you and your business. Your business will suffer because it won’t be able to cater properly to those other customers that could mean additional growth and less dependency. Knowing how to balance your customer base is a hidden secret of most really successful businesses. If one customer leaves it shouldn’t mean the end of your business, just an opportunity to find another customer or two. (D Goldberg)

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