One Question Can Tell You A Lot About Your Business
Ask yourself this question about your business:
How is my business doing compared to last year?
There are only four possible answers; I am doing better, I am not doing better, I am doing about the same, I don’t know. That’s it.
No, you cannot use the words “but” or “because” as in “I did worse because…” or “I did not do better, but…” These two words are not allowed because it is against the rules. We do not need excuses for why you did worse than last year. Excuses are easy to use and easy to hide behind. You just need to know where you stand compared to last year.
So, how did your business do compared to last year?
And now I will ask why.
Here are some possibilities:
- Sales were down
- Costs went up
- Supply chain was weak
- Could not get traction in the market
- Lost a big account
- Lost lots of accounts
- Cash flow was bad
- And on and on and on.
- I don’t know
The above list may appear to be valid reasons; however, they are only the start of figuring out what is or is not working. You need to continue the process and ask yourself “Why” and “What.” This will help you drill down to the real problems.
- Why were sales down and what did you do about it?
- Costs went up, what did you do about it?
- What did you do about the weak supply chain?
- Why could you not get traction in the market and what did you do about it?
- Why did you lose those accounts and what did you do about it?
- Why the weak cash flow and what did you do about it?
- Why don’t I know and what should I do about it?
Now we are getting somewhere. It is likely that the problems you are experiencing are merely symptoms of bigger problems your business may be suffering from. If your business was a human being, what would you do? Take it to a doctor of course. Did you ever hear the joke about the person that went to the doctor and everywhere he touched himself, there was pain? He would touch his elbow and said it hurt there, he would touch his side and it would hurt there too. This poor man would touch every part of his body and say it caused pain. The doctor looked at him and said, “Your finger is broken.” It is extremely difficult to be patient and doctor. But that is what small business owners tend to do. Many times in order to find the root problems, the ones that are causing all the pain you need to look outside of yourself and your business for an objective view. That means asking for help.
For a small business owner to ask for help is sometimes the hardest thing to do. The reasons are many. No time, afraid to tell someone that your business is hurting, the “I should be able to fix this myself” mentality, and many more reasons that prevent a business owner from seeking the help they need. You just may think you don’t need help. “There is a tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency,” said Garret Keizer, author of “Help: The Original Human Dilemma” (HarperCollins, 2004). “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.” Besides, you can go to any book store and find all the self-help books in the known universe.
So a business owner that does not ask for help has to be an expert in everything, totally self-aware, completely efficient, faultless and perfect. In other words, in the mythical sense, they must be a God. As a result, business owners tend to tie up their identity and self-worth directly to the success of their business.
The danger in thinking like this can allow a bad situation to grow from a problem into a crisis.
So where can you go for help? Unless you know what exactly the problem is, finding the right help can be confusing, frustrating, and above all else, expensive. The big questions that is often asked while looking for help is “where do I go first?” As a business owner you may be looking for advice regarding financial worries, employee issues, or any other business concerns. Be honest. There is a places you can get help and support. I would like to suggest seeking the advice of a professional who is best suited to give that kind of guidance.
Enter the ISBDC, Indiana Small Business Development Center. There is one not far from you. In fact there are over 40 business advisors in the State of Indiana, each with their own expertise, experience, and the resources to look at your business in an objective way and help you get your business on track and keep it there.
Here’s what you get when you talk to an ISBDC advisor:
- Genuine concern, you will be asked detailed questions in a confidential environment. In fact, you will be asked a lot of questions to make sure the nature of your problems are correctly diagnosed. They do this because sometimes they have to really dig into the details to properly determine the problems and find specific ways to improve your business. This process often leads to a strong working partnership built on mutual trust, hard work, and in some cases new friendships.
- A multitude of resources that include everything from determining the financial health of your business, the health of your industry, who your competition is and where to find new customers.
- Guidance in strategic planning, market research, loan assistance, and many other tools to grow your business
The approach of the ISBDC is to assist you in looking at your business in a new way. The advisors will enable you to take charge of your business, develop a realistic plan and get your business stable and then start growing. Basically, they put you back in charge of your business with all the mechanisms in place for you to move successfully into the future.
Now, to the business owners that said you have done better than last year, stop in and talk with us. We will help you exceed your yearly goals with a strategic plan that actually works.