5 Questions That Will Change How You View Your Business

thinkingAs we go through the days, weeks and months running a business it’s pretty easy to lose sight of the underlying reasons that make owning a business such a fulfilling experience.

Between the phone ringing, the network going down, and the shipment arriving late there’s the tiniest gap that we must stay connected to in order to build a business that serves our lives while providing a place for customers and staff to experience something remarkable.

I find that the following questions help me reconnect with that gap when it gets a little hard to see, feel, and hear.

1) Why are we doing this?

I wrote about doing work that serves a higher purpose last week and I think this is the question that helps stay connected to the greater reason for doing what you do. This can have a very practical branding application as well because if your business is driven by something very authentic – the manifestation of that can produce some very real branding elements. A business driven to serve, rather than simply sell a service, can wrap many messages and flourishes in that reason to serve.

2) What are we here to give?

I think this is the greatest question anyone who sells a product, service or idea can adopt. By placing your point of view on giving rather than getting, you will be more prepared to produce value for the customer and spot opportunities to produce innovations that could allow you to create even greater value. This ability to adapt to create value is one of the greatest natural advantages small businesses possess.

3) What do we want people to experience?

The rush to social media is really about the evolving trend towards greater customer engagement. Prospects and customers are growing to expect much more in terms of engagement. Organizations that spend as much time on creating a better, more engaging, customer experience as they do on generating new leads will soon find that all of their best leads are coming from existing customers. The key is to look at every aspect of your business from the eyes of a customer and intentionally design the exact experience, perception, or brand you plan for them to encounter.

4) What are we supposed to learn from this?

This one comes courtesy of the parent in me. When we meet challenges, some might call them failures, in business it’s quite natural for some to get caught up in what went wrong. The much more positive approach is to look at every turn in the road as a lesson. If you can start to wonder what you are to learn or determine how to make meaning from set backs you can drop the stress over things going bad and you just might get a glimpse of what you were really put here to do.

5) Who could do this better?

This last question always vexes me. I think I do a lot of things well. In fact, one the greatest skills and consequently weaknesses of many small business owners is the ability to adapt, figure things out on their own, and charge ahead. While we have many skills and talents there are usually only a handful of those skills and talents that can be leveraged to move the organization ahead and produce the greatest profit.

When you come to understand the work you should be focused on and start looking for partners, employees and collaborators who can do the other important, but not in your zone, work your business will change dramatically. Once again, from a practical standpoint you can often buy services far greater than you can actually do them half-baked yourself.

What questions drive you deeper into understanding how to build your business?

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  • Mike

    Brilliant! – your 5 questions should be asked and answered by every business every day. Every owner/manager should have their employees ask and answer the same questions every day.

  • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

    Hello John,

    A business also needs to push itself forward by continuous improvement so I would add another question to your list:

    How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?

    Great questions to think about!

  • http://www.redcort.com/timeclock/ Time Clock Software Guy

    Question 3 is begging an edit! “What’s do” should be “What do”. Otherwise, some good questions to ponder on a Monday.

  • http://twitter.com/firstfound Andy @ FirstFound

    Great post. I'll put these questions forward at our next meeting!

  • http://www.perryawilsonconsulting.com/ Perry

    These questions could save a lot of time in a business if answered without political wants and desires. I've worked on projects for companies where the questions have been answered but in a way to get the project off the ground rather than objectively to decide on prioritizing resources. It becomes clear very quickly that this happened when the project runs into issues.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://www.sunidesigns.com suvie

    Great guest post, I often feel like many of the tasks
    I do online are like grunt work, and like you I agree
    it was not the way I wanted to run an online business,
    I wanted everything more easy and automated.
    The 2 out 3 rule sounds good to me, I will be implementing that now,
    I was never sure what ratio to use for mailings.
    I have tried, failed and gave up, but now I am back to try again,
    with a new passion so hopefully I can find the way that works for me this time,
    thanks for this post, it really helped me

  • http://www.trainingroup.org/blog Carl Utter

    By placing your point of view on giving rather than getting, you will be more prepared to produce value for the customer.

    This statement about giving vs. getting is huge. It requires a major shift in ones mindset. You spot on. The notion of getting the deal, the sale and making the numbers now can blind a sales person, A manager and a company. We've become so focused on MAKING THE NUMBERS…as a business culture that we miss what you've so cleary pointed us to in this post.

  • http://markfrisk.com Mark Frisk

    Thanks, John, for a most insightful post. Your five easy-to-understand questions jibe perfectly with the kinds of concepts I'm discussing with clients and colleagues these days. Addressing them thoughtfully can really help people focus on what matters.

    I particularly liked Question #3. It put me to mind of a Seth Godin riff earlier this month on what if there were “no new customers”:


    How would that change how you treat your current customers? A great question and a useful thought exercise.

    Re looking “at every aspect of your business from the eyes of a customer,” that's certainly a rich vein. My colleague Bill Self looks at it in depth on his blog, Thinking Like a Customer:


    Thanks again for these questions. I intend to spread them far and wide.

  • http://www.BabyBoomerTalkOnline.com boomer54mark


    You are spot on with this post. I especially like #1 for the higher purpose of work, since as a boomer I am struggling with “what is my purpose” and #2 because as small business owners we get bogged down with getting the next sale etc. and forget that if will give more than expected we will be richly rewarded.


  • susann

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    If us boomers are struggling, can't imagine about our children's generation

  • http://www.thinktankmen.com Michael Van Osch

    Excellent. For us (and our clients) we really stress the 'whys' of everything. If you don't know why, you'll soon run out of real motivation and it's all downhill from there.

  • http://rentalmobil911.webs.com sewa elf

    great article….really helpfull…thanks

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com Ricardo Bueno

    Number 3 is a big one for me. I run a design company (we're good at what we do). Then again, so are other people, right? But why would somebody decide to work with us?

    Experience is a big factor here. We want people to have a stellar experience working with us. So much so, that they refer people and speak openly about us. In other words, we want to give people the equivalent of the “Tiffany Experience” (make sense?).

    So the question there is always, how can we do this better? And being humble enough in knowing that we can always do something better.

  • FoxwoodOnline

    A variation on 'Why Are We Doing This' is 'What Are We Giving Back'. I find that helping various non-profits on a pro-bono basis not only gives me a sense of fulfillment but it also delivers unsolicited yet profitable referrals.

  • http://www.seavusproducts.com Petra

    The first two questions are the most important ones. Nothing can be done with success unless precisely defined what are we doing and why are we doing it.

    Great article.


  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Agree Petra – It seems so obvious but without those answers it's like to trying to hold a boat without an anchor.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I agree but really that's just your answer, and a good one, to why are you doing this. My feeling is there is no one right answer.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    I find the one area everyone can improve on is creating a better customer experience. We can always tweak the way we communicate to exceed customer expectations.

  • http://www.mindsetofablogger.com DianeCorriette

    Excellent article. Its so important to take our business through this process and the way you have written everything out makes it so much easier to think about.

  • http://JasonWheeler.biz/ Jason Wheeler

    Great questions. Good questions always make you think about what you are doing and ultimately improve on yourself and your business.

  • kevinwhitee

    Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. The information you have shared is really gonna help every business man a lot. Waiting for more such posts!!
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  • http://www.carronlinemediallc.com Small Business SEO

    I think as business owners we focus too much on our products and services from our point of view. Ultimately, this gets us in trouble because we're not the ones buying what it is we're offering. These are great questions to help us get beyond this problem!

  • http://www.yuregininsesi.com yuregininsesi

    The first two questions are the most important ones. Nothing can be done with success unless precisely defined what are we doing and why are we doing it.