Entrepreneurs make an astounding number of decisions daily. They are faced with choosing which opportunities to move on and must solve problems big and small.
By setting up a framework of questions to ask yourself daily, you’ll give yourself some markers to help guide you through these difficult situations. Knowing where you stand on these questions will empower you to make good choices that ultimately lead you to your desired outcome. It will give you a deeper understanding of your motivations and your feelings about your business, and can help you clarify future plans.
Here are five powerful questions all entrepreneurs should ask themselves daily to ensure they are consistently moving toward their goals and making the best decisions for themselves and their business. Ask yourself these questions with an honest and open mind, and see where they take you.
1. Why are you doing this?
What makes this one little question so powerful is that it forces you to examine your desires and impulses, and helps you chart how those motivations change over time. It forces you to look at things from a different perspective. Asking yourself this question every day reaffirms your ambitions and the mindset behind why you are doing what you’re doing. If you don’t know why, you’re in trouble!
Asking this question opens the door to a plethora of other questions that will give you food for thought. What is the reason for launching your business? Why are you passionate about doing this? Are you the right person to run this business? These answers may change over time. At first it may seem difficult to truly nail down the “why” behind your motivations. Maybe there are competing interests that are driving you. But when you really think about it and drill down into this question, there’s probably a simple answer. Just be sure you’re being truthful with yourself.
Why you do something also gives rise to the question: what do you hope to achieve? You need to know what your end game looks like, and what success means to you. Is it about attaining a certain level of wealth? Is it about being the top in your market? Is it about earning respect? Are you looking to rule the world (or at least a niche market), or are you simply hoping to earn a living doing something you love?
Start your day by asking yourself this question and see where your answer takes you. By spending a few minutes pondering this, you’ll gain clarity that will help you steer your career in the direction you want it to go.
2. What is your company’s purpose?
See if you can answer this question in a single sentence. A good place to start is with your mission statement: what are the formal aims, goals and values of your company or organisation? This should be clear and concise – it should get to the heart of what your business is about.
Your company’s purpose is the foundation that all else is built on. It should have enough flexibility to grow and allow for change, but be specific enough to be meaningful and relevant. Ultimately, this question should help you understand what the heck you’re really doing here.
This question should be at the forefront of your mind when making important decisions. Ask yourself whether this new venture or idea would reinforce or logically contribute to your company’s overall purpose. Are you staying true to your calling?
That’s not to say that your purpose can’t change over time. However, if it does, the change should be purposeful and executed with care. Thinking about this will help you identify your long-term business goals and may lead to bigger questions, such as: What do you want your company to mean to your customers, what is your company’s place in world and what is its ideal market?
3. Where is your business at right now?
The goal with this question is to take both an analytical and emotional assessment of your business. This is a chance for you to take a hard look at where your company sits. Is it on the right track? What seems amiss? What is going right and how can that be reproduced throughout your business?
It’s also important to acknowledge your emotions and to be mindful of how you are feeling about your business. What is your gut instinct saying? Are you feeling anxious or excited about the business? Whether you are having negative emotions or positive ones, it’s important to recognise what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way.
This will give you a chance to better understand your mental state and how that may be influencing your decision making. It’s also about understanding what kind of vibe you are putting out. Are you feeling clear-minded and balanced? Or are you feeling off-kilter and out of sorts?
Being in tune with your emotions and having a clear view of what’s going on with your business will ensure you’re on an even keel. It will help you avoid overreacting or under-reacting to situations.
4. What lessons are you learning?
Every entrepreneur faces an uphill battle to achieve success. Every day you should be learning and growing, and the best way to do this is through a great deal of reflection on the lessons that present themselves each day.
Ask yourself whether you’re learning from your mistakes. Failure is a part of every entrepreneur’s journey. The question is, will your mistakes allow you to learn and grow? If not, you’re liable to fall into the same pitfalls and missteps. Conversely, are you learning when to jump at an opportunity and when to let it go? This is the ultimate lesson every entrepreneur is trying to learn, and it’s never an easy one.
The next time you’re weighing whether or not to take a risk, try asking yourself: “When I’m 80, will I feel sorry if I hadn’t gone for it?” Jeff Bezos does this as a way to crystallise whether he will regret not taking action on something. In the big picture, it’s often what we fail to do that we see as our biggest mistakes in life.
5. What’s next?
If you ask yourself one question every day, this should be it. As an entrepreneur, you always need to be anticipating what’s next. You need to anticipate what’s coming down the road and formulate a plan to take it on. This is the question that forces you to look up from that pile of work on your desk and think about the big picture and next steps for your business.
What strategies will you need as you keep pushing your business into the future? What trends or shifting interests are coming up that may affect your business? How will new technology impact the way you manage the company?
Disruption will happen in every market because change is inevitable. Businesses that survive see that wave coming and start making adjustments early on. So, in a way, change is predictable because it will always come. Innovation and ingenuity will always be the key to success – and those who seize opportunity will ride the crest of the next wave.
So when you ask yourself “What’s next?” make sure you have your blinders off and are looking at things with a curious and open mind. Make sure you’re staying open to new ideas and embracing creative solutions. Keeping looking for the “wow” factor.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Trust, But Don’t Be Stupid. Get Agreements!
Everyone has been disappointed at some time in their lives, and often by the people you least expected it from. Trust is not given, it is earned. But even after being earned, don’t be naïve about it. Temper that trust with a splash of cynicism regarding the human race.
There are many entrepreneurs who have lost everything because they placed all their trust in a certain individual or group of people. Accountants and financial directors have stolen millions from entrepreneurs who trusted them with their banking. Sales reps and account managers have made businesses go into liquidation after taking all the customers or key accounts. Business partners who you trusted with your life — the godparents of your children! — left with your business and hard-earned cash, laughing all the way.
Business is a funny thing and money makes people react in unpredictable ways. Business people are still just people. And not all of them are awesome. Agreements were invented for this very reason.
The smart entrepreneurs protect themselves against these possibilities. As a basic principle, draft and conclude proper agreements with everyone you do business with. Include restraint of trade clauses with employees, partners and suppliers. Set up internal controls in the company to ensure that no one individual is allowed to make payments or have access to cash.
Never rely on customers to fulfil their promises and don’t take risks that could sink you. Customers often over-promise and under-deliver, so be careful with their credit terms and ensure that there are proper agreements in place in case anything should go wrong.
These are all basic principles in business and most corporates will comply with them but the SME owner wants to hustle and conclude the deal. That’s a shaky tightrope to walk when you don’t have piles of cash to cushion the fall.
Related: Understanding Shareholder Agreements
As a bare minimum, you need to ensure that you have the following agreements in place to help you run your business effectively and protect against any disputes that may arise as your company grows:
Despite being sure that the relationship will last, it’s wise to prepare for the worst. A partnership or shareholder agreement sets out the responsibilities of each party and the procedures for settling conflicts. It also sets the terms and mitigates risks for all involved should one party wish to exit the agreement.
Employment agreements regulate the relationship with your employees and help to avoid misunderstandings and disputes. They regulate leave, working hours, deductions, termination, etc. The last thing you ever want, is to end up at the CCMA without an employment agreement in place.
A sales agreement sets the framework for delivery (inclusions and exclusions) and payment expectations. It creates a shared understanding between you and your client. When everything is working, no one ever refers to a contract. When there’s a problem, you can have endless disputes or simply refer to an agreement both parties signed.
4. Suppliers or subcontractors
When you depend on suppliers or subcontractors to fulfil your service obligations, you should definitely mitigate risks and protect your intellectual property. Have an agreement that stipulates delivery or performance requirements, includes a confidentiality and restraint of trade clause, and specifies how and when payments will be made. Most importantly, include provisions for rights and the action you can take if any part of this agreement fails.
The point of having agreements in place is to protect your business interests. There is little use in a contract that can’t be legally enforced. Having an attorney draw up your agreements may seem expensive, possibly over the top, but it will go a long way to ensuring that you can avoid legal proceedings in the long run.
Don’t be pennywise, pound foolish. Get the right agreements in place and protect yourself! Trust, but don’t be stupid about it.
Will You Make The Right Decision?
Our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make, both big and small. Improve your decision-making process, and you’ll improve every aspect of your life and business.
“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” — Paulo Coelho
Much of what I do in coaching is to help my clients gain clarity around the decisions they make. Every day we must make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions. Some of them are big and will have a dramatic impact on our personal and business lives. Others are small and made automatically without us paying much attention to them.
No matter how big or small a decision is, it pays to have a clear intention for why you are choosing a specific course of action.
After all, our lives are an accumulation of the decisions we make. The small and the big ones.
1. The Values Link
Society has conditioned us to think of success mostly in terms of achievement. This means that when faced with a decision about your future, you should take the option that would potentially deliver more money, more certainty, and more stuff.
I have often spoken to clients who think they want something, but it turns out to be a temporary infatuation. Once the emotional high wears off they realise that the shiny object was merely a distraction.
So, one of the best things you can do is to first create some distance from the decision you have to make. However, this is not always possible. In such cases I talk to my clients about the Values Link.
Essentially, we are trying to see which decision will link best to your values (current and future). I recently met with a great business coach to discuss potential collaborations. Our coaching differs in many ways. One of the key ways is that he has an awesome office where clients come to meet him and I do all my coaching digitally.
Leaving the meeting I had some office envy. I immediately started looking at To Let signs and googling office spaces to rent. I could see in my mind how my office space would look. Leather chairs. A wall filled with books. A tray with crystal glasses and premium whisky.
When the emotional high died down I realised it was not what I wanted at all. Conducting all my work digitally is exactly what I want because I value my freedom and mobility. This is not to say he doesn’t value these things, it just means that we prioritise and action our values differently. Be aware though that making decisions in this manner requires you to know what your values are.
2. Visualise the future
Visualisation is a great tool with many applications. Something I often ask my clients to do is to spend time visualising the possible outcomes of the decision they have to make.
I am not talking about a quick glimpse of what it may look like. I mean immersing yourself in it and feeling it.
What does it feel like when you have unhinged yourself from a certain commitment? What does it feel like when you have a new opportunity in front of you?
Try and visualise yourself into a day in the future and feel what it feels like. Sounds weird but you should try it!
3. Binary is boring
Many of us think that a decision is choosing between X or Y. In reality it could mean choosing between X, Y, Z, A, or B.
There is a paradox here. Research has shown that we make better decisions when we limit the amount of options we must choose between. However, do not limit yourself unnecessarily.
Use this paradox to your advantage. Take the time to be creative before making a decision and create as many different scenarios as you can. Create extreme versions of the decision, look for the middle ground, look at it from above and below. Generate possibilities.
Once you have done that, eliminate as many options until only the most useful ones remain. You do this by linking it back to your values and by checking the decisions against other criteria that you have determined.
Decisions that count
Decision-making is your most powerful tool for creating a bright future.
So, take care of the decisions you make, and they will take care of you. Remember above all to bring intention to every action and decision and watch the magic happen.
Make A New Start In 2019
It’s nearly the start of a new year, and possibly a wise time to take stock of your life. Whether you are ready for a complete change or just want to take stock and empower or tweak one or more areas of your life.
People fall into a rut whenever what they do on a daily basis doesn’t align with their true highest values and offer satisfaction and meaning. A rut is a by-product of not giving yourself permission to go after what you truly want in life. The result? You feel trapped in something that is not fully gratifying and fulfilling.
Here are some tips to help you make a new start…
1. Work out what is truly most important to you
When your daily actions do not align with your highest values, you won’t be eager to get up in the morning. So what could you wisely do? Be sure you know what your top three highest values are – what is truly most important to you. For example, ask yourself:
- What energises you at work or at home?
- What is it that you love doing each day that also serves others?
- What do you always find money for and to do?
- In a social situation, what do you most frequently desire to talk about?
- What are the top three goals you’re persistently keen to achieve?
Pay close attention to what you are inspired by and what you spontaneously do each day and you will discover what you value most. Creating a life around your highest priorities and strategising your day in such a way to fulfill that is powerful.
2. Learn from your past reactions or actions
Although it’s unwise to dwell on the past and beat yourself up about any previous decisions, it is wise to reflect on what has most and least worked for you and view your previous actions as helpful feedback content for refinement. This can help you identify what might work more effectively for you in the future. For example, if your personal relationship is tense at the moment, is may be because you are projecting your personal values on to them and unwisely expecting them to live outside their own highest values. Or they may be doing this to you. Or you both may be doing this to each other.
If this is the case, perhaps it would be wise to ask yourself how is what they are dedicated to serving you and how is what you are dedicated to serving them? If you ask and answer those questions 20 times each you will end up with more communicative dialogues and less alternating monologues and tension.
If you applied for a new job and didn’t get or land it, take a look at what you might have done to get such a result, and what refinements you can do differently next time to help you get your desired outcome. Be honest with yourself. Then, think about how a different more refined outlook or action could help you achieve your desired outcome.
3. Learn to be SMART
SMART stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. You can apply these goals to both your personal and professional lives.
For instance, instead of setting a goal such as falling in love this year, rather consider a more likely or attainable goal. Subscribe to an online dating website, or ask your friends to set you up with someone. You could also join new groups and activities where you can meet new people. Or simply prioritise your actions, do what you love and live authentically, which is most attractive to someone who will match you. Then measure your success in attaining your goal by how many new people you meet and how productive and inspired you are.
Set realistic goals with actions you have true control over.
Set achievable goals, not improbable or unlikely ones! An example of an improbable goal is deciding that you’re going to win the lottery for wealth building purposes. Instead of this, which has a very small chance of coming true, why not look at your financial house and get it into order? Budget to save money to achieve your goal of having more, and also budget to spend money on appreciable investments more than depreciable consumables. Serve more and earn more so you can save more and invest more.
Also, don’t set yourself a radical goal to lose half your body weight in an unrealistic time frame – this may be unwise, unhealthy and unrealistic. Rather set yourself a more realistic goal of say, losing a kilo every week or fortnight, something that is more probable. Be realistic with your goals, rather than trying to achieve something unattainable. And don’t expect a quick fix. Rather set yourself smaller, more achievable goals, and then, when you meet them, you’ll feel more inspired to continue to expand them further.
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