Much of business success is in your brain, in the way you think. America's earliest businesspeople knew that better than anyone, holding a unique mentality that let them thrive despite incredible hardships. Asking yourself the same key questions they did can change the entire way you approach work.

1. What essentials do I need?

Early settlers, like many of today's entrepreneurial immigrants, couldn't travel with a lot of extras. Pare down to what's most important, don't waste resources and focus on your primary goal. And once you have a tangible list of supplies, it's easier to believe that your vision can become reality in a practical way and to form distinct steps for moving forward.

2. What is available to me?

At each new camp, at each new town or in each new geographical region, settlers had to start fresh and see what the land and people had to offer. This forced them into incredible ingenuity and kept them open to possibility. This question can help you similarly keep stock of and identify new resources, think outside the box and decide whether specific locations are ideal for expanding your company.

3. What situation will I be in in x [days, weeks, months]?

Pioneers were always looking ahead. They stocked up on supplies where and when they could, and they ran their homesteads anticipating elements like seasonal and weather changes, visitors and repairs. For you, this mindset applies to inventory management, loan application and repayment, product launches, accepting or rejecting proposals and much more. It's essential for setting an operational timeline.

4. What do I have to offer?

Settlers rarely had a lot of money. But they were incredible barterers. They analyzed their strengths and what they had that was expendable, and they would trade both services and goods to move forward. Learn to recognize your assets. This lets you know where your pieces fit well with other individuals or companies, which means a better chance of partnerships, mergers or acquisitions yielding good fruit. And by taking stock, you learn what needs improvement, too.

5. Who are my neighbors?

For early settlers, knowing who was around wasn't just a matter of making friends. It was about knowing which people were threats and which could get them out of a pickle. Identify who's in your industry, who you can mentor or learn from, where resources are and how you need to position yourself in the market.

6. What condition are my weapons in?

Pioneers always kept their weapons--mainly, guns and the axe--in good order, not only for everyday tasks like chopping wood and hunting, but also for safety. Converting this concept to modern business, your modern weapons are anything you use to maintain or gain market share. This includes tangibles like your critical technology to intangibles like experience or verbal communications. If you constantly evaluate the status of these elements, you won't be caught off guard and will be more likely to respond to competition and shifting consumer demands well.

Because pioneers had to make their own path with so little, they looked at themselves, the world and their future very differently than most of us do today. Their mindset was simultaneously defensive and offensive, and as outstanding planners, they didn't overcomplicate their goals. Bring their way of thinking into your modern office to pave your own new road.

Published on: Feb 14, 2018