Advice for Small Business Owners: Question Everything

You start a small business and you run forward – sometimes in a straight line, but usually not, and always at full speed.  You could be fully occupied by your creating, marketing and distributing your product or service, but you still have to worry about everything and everyone else while keeping your eye on profitability and growth.  Through fits and spurts and stops and starts and redirections, you get traction and the success of the enterprise starts to grow, so you run faster to keep up with everything.  It can be a wild ride.  What often gets lost on your ride in the fast lane (or on the hamster wheel) is your occasional need to pause – and breathe – in order to allow you time and space to evaluate how you got there and what you would do better to improve.  Don’t be afraid to question everything!

There is no one comprehensive list of questions, as each business is unique.  Nevertheless, slow down every once in a while and consider some or all of the following things that you can change, if it makes sense to do so:

  • Am I working too hard?
  • Am I accomplishing my goals? Should I revise them?
  • Am I still happy doing this?
  • Do I need more, fewer or different employees to help support me and my goals?
  • Does my real estate footprint still work at my size? Should I get more space or downsize what I have?
  • Is my company a good working environment for its employees? Why and why not?
  • Do I provide benefits? Should I?  Should I improve the benefits offered to my employees?
  • Have I created an environment where employees feel valued and invested in the business’s success? Can I improve that?
  • Who is our customer? Who else should be our customer?
  • How is the customer experience? Can I improve it?  Should I ask customers or clients for input or reviews?
  • Who are my competitors? What differentiates us?  What are they doing well?  What are they not doing well?
  • Are there ways to better manage my cash flow?
  • Are there better ways to manage my credit?
  • Can I improve my receivables collections?
  • Should we grow? What are the pros and cons of growing?
  • Do I have the right IT and IT vendor?
  • Can I add new revenue streams and, if so, how and at what cost?
  • Do I have the right vendors? Are there alternative sources of supplies and services I should seek?
  • How can we better touch the market place for our goods and services? Do we have the right marketing plan?
  • Is our online and social media presence good enough? Is it effective?  Is it updated frequently?
  • Should I look for strategic partners?
  • Should I look for equity partners?
  • Should I sell all or part of the business? Should we merge with another entity?
  • Do we have a CPA and ,if so, is she a good fit?
  • Do we have the right legal talent helping us?
  • Are we managing our risk? If not, how can we and, if so, how can we do it better?
  • Is HR under control? At what cost?
  • What is my exit plan?

If you periodically ask and answer these questions, you enhance your chances of success.  Be sure to add to this list for issues unique to your own business.  Business advisors can help you with all of these questions.

For further information on starting a new business or unique issues faced by business owners, contact our Annapolis or Columbia office today.