Subscribe to Inc. magazine

3 Questions You Must Ask Before You Make a Deal

What is it that really separates super-successful entrepreneurs from average Joes? They really get to know the people they do business with. Here's how.
Advertisement

If you've ever spoken with a highly-successful entrepreneur and felt like you were being interrogated, it probably wasn't your imagination.

Based on survey research I've done for my new book Business Brilliant, I've found that the self-made rich (those who have a net worth of $10 million or more) are very serious about getting to know the people they do business with. No matter how smart or talented you are, they want to take your full measure before they consider going forward with you. It's not a bad practice to learn from.

Here are the three crucial questions (commonly ignored by most people) that nearly all super-successful entrepreneurs insist on getting answers to:

1. 'How much do you earn and what are you worth?'

If you don't know what someone earns or how much money they already have, how can you be sure that you're not wasting their time--or that they're not wasting yours? For some people, bringing home a $10,000 deal is worth long hours of hard work into the night. For others, it's scarcely worth any effort at all. You need to bring the right size opportunity to people you do business with. 

2. 'What are you good at?'

Top entrepreneurs are all about delegation. They want to work with people who are performing only at the height of their capabilities, so they can maximize their contributions to a project. Knowing the specifics of what a potential partner is exceptionally good at--instead of making assumptions--gives you a clearer picture of what you can count on him for.

'….and what are you not very good at?'

The crucial flipside of the same question. You need to know your partners’ weaknesses, too--whether they're self-aware or not. Steering your associates around their weaknesses and putting them to work in areas of their strengths is the smartest way to limit risk and maximize results. If you ignore your partners’ vulnerabilities, a project can sink before you have a chance to intervene.

3. 'How do you cope with setbacks and failures?'

Some entrepreneurs avoid working with those who have only known success. Why? Because it's hard to predict how such people might react to hardship and loss. Some people who have never failed are like hothouse flowers--valuable and attractive, for sure, but unlikely to survive in any less-than-perfect climate. When troubles arise--when they're needed the most--they're more likely to wilt than blossom.

What is the sum value of knowing the answers to these three crucial questions? You'll know what motivates the people you're in business with.

What's more: You'll get yourself closer to operating like the super-successful.

In my Business Brilliant survey, more than 80 percent of the self-made rich agreed with the statement: "It is essential that I understand the motivations of my business associates." But among a sample of ordinary middle-class people, fewer than 20 percent said the same.

Most people don't even want to know these things about their potential business partners. Most people are either too afraid to ask, or not resourceful enough to get answers by other means.

But if you disregard asking these three crucial questions, just know that you're probably exposing your projects and your livelihood to some degree of avoidable risk.

That's because you'll be following the timid practices of average people, and ignoring the business-brilliant practices of the super-successful. You've been warned.

Sign up for free updates from Lewis Schiff, author of Business Brilliant

Last updated: Feb 13, 2013

LEWIS SCHIFF | Inc. Business Owners Council

Lewis Schiff is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: