5 Questions That You Need to Ask Yourself, as a Small Business Owner

The most successful business owners see themselves as lifetime learners. They live in a mode of asking questions, listening to people, including family, friends, employees, industry peers, management experts, mentors and others with valuable knowledge and ideas to offer. Here are some essential questions that every small business owner should ask, to check yourself for blind spots in your way of thinking about your business and your future plans for it. When you can answer these well, you’ll feel more sure of the track you’re on with your business and your strategic plans for its future and yours.

1. What Don’t I Know?
How much do you know about what you need to do to succeed? You’ll need to ask yourself some pretty big questions to figure that out. What am I missing in my self-education, or in my formal education about doing business? About my industry? About business finance management? About strategic planning? What more do I need to know about my competition? My suppliers? My target market? For most newer business owners, these kinds of questions can have many answers. There’s certainly a lot to know, and you probably still have quite a bit of it left to learn. Start with the essentials.
Read industry magazines, especially small business growth success stories. Join an industry peer group. Join your local chamber of commerce, business persons organization, civic group, local recreational sports league, etc.. Read service business management books and articles. Watch YouTube videos on entrepreneurial risk-taking, small business financial planning, business technology advancements, industry-specific product innovations and other relevant topics. Discuss business with trusted, knowledgeable family members, friends, vendors and local entrepreneurs. Talk to your local SBA representative about any and everything you care to learn about local resources for lending, business learning and networking. Ask clients about your services and what they recommend for further optimizing them?

2. How Big Should I Think?
Different entrepreneurs think on different scales. Vision varies by personal perspectives on what constitutes a good life. Many entrepreneurs set staggering goals for themselves and their businesses. Daring to dream such dreams is daunting, and perhaps even excessive-seeming to those with less amped-up ambitions. Scaling a service business indeed starts with the size of the ultimate goal.
Around the country, there are many satisfied, happy portable restroom business owners, loving their lives, running a few trucks and a couple of hundred rental units. Their lives are rich. They know what they want. Others have tunnel-vision on building major regional companies. Many have achieved that and aspire to continue growing. Others have become national mega-providers, employing hundreds of administrative and support employees and dispatching thousands of local service contractors coast-to-coast. Ask yourself a few key questions, to determine on what heading you want to put your business in terms of growth.
Ask yourself, “Is the scope of my long-business plan appropriate to realize a level of success that is commensurate with my abilities and my company’s full potential for market share?” The answer could include assessment of short- and long-term market indicators that you should be aware of, projected future inventory costs, shifting employment market factors, diversification options for adding revenue channels, broader economic factors, financing costs, and other key considerations in long-term strategic growth planning.
Ask yourself if you’re taking the proper steps to ensure that your early operational and financial positioning are sound, for purposes of enabling and guiding the extent of long-term growth you envision. Get help. Seek consultation about the necessary tech development and growth financing. As your first order of tasks in pursuit of growth, conduct an analyses of the industrial and business consumer markets for your industry in the area you’re targeting for expansion. Additionally, complete a competitive market analyses of those areas.
Remember to include in your deliberations a healthy amount of mulling over what you really want out of your life. For you, is it all about living a charming, simple, quiet life doing the work you enjoy? Or, do you want an epic adventure, striving to meet the challenges of growing a business into a regional, or even a national player.

3. Can My Business Run Itself?
Can your business can run without you for a day? A week? Two weeks? Ask, “What people and standardized processes and policies do I need to put in place, to ensure that my business operations will be uninterrupted and profitable, if I’m away due to illness, family obligation, vacation, etc.? You need to position your portable restroom field staff and administrative office team to operate independently of you, whether you plan to take a family vacation, or to visit new markets, as part of your methodical take-over of the lower forty eight states with your business growth strategy.
So, is your staff ready to fly on their own? Of course, like so many great business questions, this one opens up a vast array of other inquiries. Are your employees dependable to show up? Are they clear on established processes? Can they field issues and provide solutions? Do they know when to contact you for decisions or larger problem resolutions? Do they understand the big picture of the business’s goals well enough to manage their tasks in ways that guide operations in the general direction toward those goals?
The first time you find that you really need or want to leave your staff on their own, you become acutely aware of the importance of having already prepared them for the challenge. Provide thorough training along the way, as a high priority. Spend a bit of time every day in brief instructive coaching moments with all, or as many employees as possible. Every week, conduct short group training meetings. Every month, present policy and procedures training. Every year, provide staff and systems reviews, and set improvement objectives. Business team success requires a system of training, to develop the best possible support around you. Systematic training maximally multiplies your efforts, to ensures that the strongest possible progress continues, uninterrupted, in your absence.

4. Do I Face Down Tough Decisions or Avoid Them?
Entrepreneurs are confronted by myriad daily decisions and many larger, longer-term ones that can add up to overwhelm the average risk-averse individual. So, it’s important to recognize that some hesitance to incur the kinds of risks that are inherent in business decisions, large and small, is natural. The resolve to stare down risks, make challenging decisions and move forward, despite fear of being wrong, is leadership courage. That particular form of courage is the foundational requirement for business management success.
Adopt a simple approach to making business decisions. When faced with major decisions, there are some essential considerations to weigh. Check yourself to ensure that you’re following a winning decision-making formula. Especially, weigh the pros and cons, to ensure that any short-term gains for which you’re trading off long-term benefits are really worth it. (Hint: In business, they’re usually not.)
Further, cure yourself of the dreaded “paralysis by analysis” syndrome, if you happen to have that. If you find yourself taking excessive lengths of time to make decisions, or stalling out and not making them at all, seek input from trusted friends, relatives, industry peers in other regions, experts, etc.. Let others provide a sounding board for your deliberations, and get some free advice from them to add to your helpful considerations.

5. Am I Making Sense of Work / Life Balance?
Are you burning the candle at both ends, per the old cliché about workaholics? People who do that sometimes achieve spectacular things in business for a while, and they’re confident that they’ll never run down. But, then they burn out a little. Confidence falters, and they may become increasingly uncertain about their aspirations and abilities. Business ownership tends not to be a hospitable place for those who lunge at their objectives like indefatigable human business management machines. All too often people who throw themselves at their goals with such unrestrained force find themselves, at some point, doing what they would have sworn was impossible for them—feeling fatigued and even burned out.
So, by any means, measure your routine. Come up for air frequently. Listen to your spouse and friends when they say you need time off. You need some evening and/or weekend periods of relaxation and recreation, and yes, you do actually need the occasional vacation. Running oneself into the ground is a rookie mistake made by some unproven corporate middle managers struggling to demonstrate to the boss their incomparable commitment and super-human energy. Since you are the boss, it’s up to you to live well the life you’ve chosen for yourself and your family. That refers to a balanced, maturely measured way of being an independent business owner.
Notwithstanding the need for spending time with family and friends, to help you maintain some healthy balance and perspective on what it is that you’re working for in the first place, it’s true that many entrepreneurs are of the type who simply enjoy running their businesses more than doing any kind of personal activity. No problem. Doing what you love is the whole point. Balance, however, is about being able to recognize when it’s time to shift over to enjoying other things temporarily.
Preserve the sense of joy you feel in your work, by not over-exploiting it until one day you find that it feels more like drudgery that you want to escape, than the exhilarating adventure it once was for you. For people whose work is their favorite thing to do, spending time relaxing and doing something different than work invariably makes getting back into the office even more satisfying.

Take-Away
There’s an easy business case for conducting the kind of self-examination suggested in the question series above. Use this simple set of inquiries to evaluate your current positioning and its liklihood of leading to achievement of your goals. Create a professional development plan for yourself. Give yourself some developmental tasks to accomplish daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, to help you advance your essential business management skills, and knowledge of your field and your market. Forge your path to optimal business success and happiness by committing to life-long learning, self-examination, training your team and balancing your personal and professional life.

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