How on earth do we know if we are on track or not in our business? Most of us just measure our progress by our bank account balance, which is just one measure and often not a very good one. Many business owners simply muddle their way through, hoping that they are doing more things right than wrong.
The "muddle along" strategy is one that I used for almost 20 years, but it was very stressful and a lot harder than it needed to be. But I realized that there was a better way to measure progress and to make sure I was on track. I worked with business coaches and obviously coach others and I soon realized that I need to ask myself the questions a business coach would ask me.
In other words, by asking myself ten strategic questions on a regular basis, which meant whenever I felt I was going off track, I could coach myself back to where I needed to be heading. You can do the same.
1. Am I staying true to my big picture goal?
The very nature of being an entrepreneur means that we look for opportunities, but if you are not careful you can spend all of your time chasing new opportunities and not realizing any of the ones under your nose. We need to know what our big picture is and then make sure we are staying on track to achieve it.
2. Is my business better this week, in some way, than it was last week?
Now, this might seem like a big challenge, and it is, but it really just means that we are committed to constant and never-ending improvement. It might be better organized, it might mean a new coat of paint, it might be a new marketing campaign, securing that new client, a website update or a new product or service.
3. Am I on top of the money I am owed?
A surprising number of profitable businesses go broke simply because they don't have any cash. We all need to keep track of the money we are owed and most importantly, we need to get really good at ensuring any money owed comes in.
4. What am I doing to get new customers right now?
Successful businesses never stop looking for new customers. When times are good they business develop, when times are tough they business develop even more
5. Am I charging enough?
From my experience, many businesses simply don't charge enough. This is generally due to their beliefs around self-worth. One way to benchmark your charge out rates is by how many jobs you win. If you get every job you quote on, you are too cheap. If you get less than a third, you are probably too expensive. I like to sit somewhere in the middle, around the 60 percent mark.
6. Am I getting word of mouth referrals?
If you are not getting referrals there could be a problem. Clearly you need to make sure you are asking people how they heard about your business. Don't expect to get referrals if you don't refer others yourself.
7. Do I really know what is going on in my industry?
We all need to stay abreast of what is happening within our industry. I spend at least one hour a day researching online to see what people are doing in the entrepreneurial space.
8. Am I investing in myself and my business?
A business that lacks investment soon shows the signs of wear and tear, as does the business owner who fails to invest in him or herself. Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. We are in it for the long run.
9. Am I contributing to the community where I make my living?
Now more than ever, businesses are under scrutiny to show that they play an active role in the communities where they operate. This means stepping up and giving time and money (if you can) for good causes.
10. Am I balancing my life and my business?
There's no two ways about it, being a workaholic may bring short-term success, but it is not sustainable or enjoyable. We need to have a very clear life outside of our business, one where we do the things we really enjoy doing and that recharge our batteries.
If you get into the habit of asking the right questions, you can guide and manage your business (and your life) exactly where you want it to go. Be your own business coach - it doesn't mean you don't need some external advice from time to time, but a lot of the answers you are looking for you already know.