Asking the Hard Questions

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Asking the Hard Questions

going quick going farThe stereotype of a solo entrepreneur is part urban legend, part truth. The simple truth is that being an entrepreneur or business owner can be a lonely occupation. No one cares about your business as much as you do or the way you do. You can’t always trust your family and friends – they love you and may not tell you the truth. You can’t always trust vendors or industry contacts – they often have something to gain from your decisions. It’s important to find a person you can trust for honest feedback- someone you can trust to ask the hard questions.

Hard questions might include…

Reports say that 25% food cost is not reasonable. How are you going to adjust your plan?

ISBDC business advisors have the benefit of talking to many clients in a variety of industries and markets, gathering a breadth of knowledge from those conversations while maintaining confidentiality. While advisors may not have exact matches for every situation, we have access to a variety of sources to make a close estimate.

How can other companies in your industry afford to invest in marketing, but you don’t think you can?

With some exceptions, accounting, marketing, HR, and operations are fairly similar across many different business models.  Best practices are similar as well. While ISBDC business advisors haven’t seen or done it all, we have seen businesses operating properly and successfully, as well as poorly and failing.

What will happen to your business if you don’t fix your relationship with your business partner?

While you might suggest that your business is dramatically different than any other, there are fundamental principles that apply to your situation.  Whether you are connected by industry, company size, geography, ownership style or a host of other factors, you are not alone in your experiences. Somebody else has already navigated the waters you are currently in, either successfully or not. There are lessons to be learned from them.

How will you pay your bills if people don’t buy from you right away?

The appeal of starting and operating a business often fades quickly, especially when things don’t go as planned. It is worsened when negative surprises cause major upheaval on the profit and loss statement and then, the checkbook. Conversely, when you have planned accordingly and have enough working capital, those surprises are just bumps in the road and part of the process. When we walk through the financial and cash flow projections together, you are able to adequately plan for the inevitable unpredictability a business can present.

Have you done the necessary research or are you just trying to get away from your bad job?

It’s our goal to treat you professionally and with respect. On the other hand, we aren’t your friends and family. We go home at night to our other lives, but your wife has to live with you after she told you your idea was no good.  Your friends might risk losing your friendship if they suggest that you maybe haven’t thought everything through. ISBDC business advisors have the freedom and the knowledge to be honest with you and are available to be a trustworthy sounding board.

I know you that you love your product, but will everyone else love it like you do?

Certainly, there are some products and services that we are excited about, depending on our own personal interests.  But we aren’t usually excited like you are. You live, eat, drink and sleep it. We don’t, and because we don’t, we can maintain a little distance. It’s your job to be passionate about what you want to do – it’s our job to inject some reality into the situation.

If you’re ready to ask hard questions about your business, there are resources out there to help you. It’s been said that it is easy to start a business – operating a successful business is another matter entirely. As it says in the quote above, the ISBDC wants to help you go far, not just quick. Find out about services in your area here.

Scott Underwood

Scott Underwood holds a Bachelor’s degree from Ball State university. He has experience with various aspects of small business and entrepreneurship. He enjoys working with entrepreneurs in various stages of business, from feasibility to start-up to growth. His ability to consult with clients and ask the “hard questions” helps provide a different perspective to business owners and opens new avenues for success. He also has industry-specific experience in the franchise industry.
Scott Underwood can be reached at sunderwood@isbdc.org.
Posted in: Business Planning

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