FroZEN musings :: 8 questions every small business owner should answer

One benefit to all this snow (at least 60" and counting) is the opportunity to ponder many things while dealing with the white stuff (a/k/a shoveling).   In true Zen spirit, I've decided to label these my froZEN musings...

The most important question we answer for clients is pretty straightforward :: what does your business need to do today in order to achieve growth & profitability tomorrow?  Most owners think they know the answer to this question.  So do many employees.  Each of their perspectives, however, are filtered through their personal beliefs and preconceptions. Our first job is to help businesses identify their unfiltered reality.

The process we follow to define an organization's unfiltered reality is our proverbial "secret sauce."  My froZEN musings, however, resulted in eight questions that we're now going to ask clients to answer each month.  Do the same, and you'll be positioning yourself down a path of growth & profitability (though you may not get there as directly or as fast without our "secret sauce") ::

  1. Describe what your product /service does and who buys it.  Can you do this in one sentence?  If yes, then a whole host of things are going to be a lot easier for you.  If not, make it your top priority to do so.
  2. Explain why somebody chooses to buy your product / service.  Can you do this in one sentence?  If yes, a double ration of grog in celebration.  If not, make it priority # two.
  3. What one thing is most responsible for preventing sales?  Now put a plan together to fix this and make it happen.  Your goal should be to have a different answer to this question each month.
  4. What's one thing you could do to get feedback from existing customers or lost sales opportunities?  Make it happen, listen and learn from your customers.
  5. Which of your business operations do you most hate?  Consider how you can delegate these activities to others.  If there are no "others,"  begin defining how these activities can be managed by a new hire.
  6. What business operations / initiatives could you do "half-assed" without creating problems for either your clients or your brand?  As with #5 above, begin defining how these activities can be delegated or folded into a new hire.
  7. Is the role of your next hire sufficiently defined to assure their activities will generate enough new revenue to cover their salary & benefits?   (Revenue generation doesn't have to be direct...  could be something as simple as freeing you up to generate more sales...)   If not, go back to the drawing board until you know how your new hire will be able to "pay for" themselves.
  8. If you could get 1 solid hour of advice from a professional you respect, what would you discuss and what would be the goal of your meeting?  You can create the opportunity to work with a "guru," or it could happen by chance.  Either way, if you're not ready you're wasting both the opportunity and each other's time.  Success is achieved at the intersection of opportunity and preparation.

Any others you'd like to add?  (perhaps my brain was simply froZEN after 8 questions...)  Would love to hear your thoughts...

zen and the art of small business

Daruma dolls have their genesis with the father of Zen Buddhism...

daruma dolls are a tangible reminder of the enlightement achieved by the father of zen buddhism. (photo credit :: american express open)

as this recent article on goal setting astutely pointed out, "it's not that people don't know how to set a goal.   it's that they have a hard time keeping it."

i was drawn to this article because of its title (referring to "zen luck"),  and was especially pleased to learn about the significance of the daruma doll in japanese culture.  apparently, daruma dolls are  given to individuals taking on a new challenge or direction (which can include starting a new venture or setting a significant goal).    at the start of this journey, the recipient of the doll makes a wish and paints in one eye (usually the left).  the other eye is painted when the goal is achieved.

Children of the 1970's, do you remember "weebles" ("weebles wobble but they won't fall down")?  the creator of the weeble must have been a zen practitioner, as weebles are just like a well-made daruma doll -- "bouncing back to regain its balance, and symbolizing an undaunted spirit and recovery from misfortune."

We have a quotation hanging in the zen bungalow that reads "failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.  -- henry ford."   i guess ford was a zen practitioner, too.    whether you're a successful capitalist or enlightened buddhist monk, however, the lesson remains the same.

in pursuit of our goals, we will be knocked over.  many times.  the key to achieving our goals lies in reminding ourselves to emulate daruma.   happy 2011!