The Four Questions Every Entrepreneur Must Ask

By Ming Chan, an EO Los Angeles member and founder/CEO of The1stMovement.

Running a business can feel like a roller coaster. There can be times when you feel invincible, that everything’s going your way, that you can do no wrong. But there can also be times when the world weighs heavy on your shoulders, that things just won’t go your way, and that you can’t catch a break. Stick around long enough as an entrepreneur and you’ll experience them all.

So, as an entrepreneur, how do you keep from losing perspective, to weather those highs and lows for exactly what they are– the temporary ups and downs of growth? The key is to maintain balance at all times.
 As Michael E. Gerber, author of “E-Myth“, once said: “The entrepreneur sees opportunities everywhere we look, while many people see only problems everywhere they look.” Optimism is arguably the single most important factor to an entrepreneur’s success. At the same time, a healthy dose of realism is not only helpful, but crucial to your survival. 

Think of the two sides of your brain. You must use your left brain’s logical power to keep success from going to your head. Simultaneously, exercising your right brain’s emotional power will keep those dark times from getting you down. To find balance between those opposites, here are the four questions an entrepreneur simply MUST ask themselves, in good times or in bad

Question #1: “Are We in a Growing Business Sector, or a Dying One?”

If times are tough, you may wonder if they’ll ever cease. Likewise, if business is soaring, you may unwittingly be free-falling toward the end. In either case, ask yourself: Are your opportunities growing or shrinking? The fact is, paradigms do shift. Specific technologies become extinct. If the demand for what you offer is dying, you’d better act fast! Innovate, or the best you can ever do is merely postpone the inevitable.

Question #2: “What is Our Position in the Market?”

Regardless of circumstance, your position in your marketplace is key. Is your company the top dog? A bottom feeder? An up-and-comer? Your market position shows what you do well, what you do less well, and what you don’t do at all. More than a mere peer comparison, this question actually reveals where your opportunities lie. It’s your road map to success!  But how you get there is another question. Thus:

Question #3: “Is Our Current Business Model Broken?”

Your business model must answer this simple question: How will you generate enough revenue to meet not only your expenses but also earn a profit? It’s as simple as that. If you are not making profit, your business model is broken. Like a flat tire, you must fix it. Your sales, your rates, your expenses …  an easy tweak may be all you need. But sometimes, you may need an entirely new business model. To do that, you’ll really need your optimism AND your realism.

The Most Important Question: “Why Am I Doing This?”

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, once said, “Chase the vision, not the money, and money will end up following you.” As an entrepreneur, ask yourself: What makes you wake up every day and do what you do? There are millions of ways to make money, to support yourself or your family … you chose this industry, this company, this life path for a reason. What is it? What drives you? In other words: What is your vision? 

This answer determines every decision you make– from the external, to the internal, to the unconscious. Here, you weigh the idealism that drives you with the practicalities that make it “real.” This is where optimism and realism go hand in hand; where your left brain and right brain work together in harmony.

Change can be tough. But change is necessary. Change is also vital, inspiring, and even invigorating. After all, change is rebirth! Whatever your path, the key to success comes when you have the courage to ask yourself the tough questions and face the opportunity your answers reveal. That’s what being an entrepreneur is. It’s how we commit, over and over, to making our visions realities. And vision isn’t subject to those ups and downs of the roller coaster. In a world of change, your vision is constant.

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