Three Crucial Questions for Small Business Owners

Posted by Stephanie Valentine on October 6, 2009 in Small Business Leadership, Small Business Management |

There’s no doubt that most organizations, from small businesses to large corporations, are struggling. It’s been a darn hard time for most people. And yet giving up just really isn’t an option for many small business owners since the job market doesn’t offer a lot of hope and many retirement plans have suffered serious setbacks.

But even though the economic situation is less than perfect, it does present us small business owners with a perfect opportunity to ask some penetrating questions. It allows us to ask ourselves what is important about our small businesses. It helps us remember why we started our small businesses, and determine whether those reasons are still important to us.

That’s why it’s important for us small business owners to ask themselves three crucial questions. The answers to these questions will either get you back to feeling great about your small business or clarify the fact that you need to move into some other form of livelihood.

An Example: My Four Small Businesses
For instance, I run four small businesses. Three are well-established and require fairly passive management on a daily basis. The fourth is a startup, not quite a year old, and one that I hope to grow within the next two years. The startup takes some fairly active work to keep afloat, not to mention monetary investment, but I don’t resent the investment or the elbow grease. Having done three other startups, which are now established businesses, I know the length of time it takes to launch a startup. I know the patience required.

On the other hand, there are days when I just want to give up the ghost and call it quits. Some days I get very little done or I’m just too tired to even stagger over to my cigar stash for a relaxing puff. It’s off to bed so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow. These are the days I ask myself, “Why the hell am I doing this?” These are the days when the two years I’ve given myself to build my startup seem like the equivalent of living in purgatory …forever. These are the days when I have to sit down and reflect on why I have small businesses, and why they are important to me.

Three Questions for Small Business Owners
On those DODs (days of despair, not Department of Defense), I ask myself three questions:

1. What do I get from my small businesses and what do I pay?

2. Are the original reasons I started these businesses still important, and if not, are there new reasons to keep going?

3. Is there a way to change my business model to fit this new economy?

My Answers
It would be too long-winded and boring to list my answers to those questions for all my small businesses, but I will give you the answers for one business, just for grins. So one business I have is an online school that teaches magic (like spellwork and Tarot) and shamanic traditions. Answers to the three questions are as follows:

1. What do I get from my small businesses and what do I pay?
I get to spread this esoteric information to people all over the world, especially in countries where this kind of information isn’t readily available, like Nigeria and New Zealand. I get to play a part in spreading magic into the world. I also get a solid paycheck.

Aside from regular operating expenses, I pay in elbow grease … in the attempt to reach the right audience. The information we offer is for people who really want to learn the art and science of magic and shamanism, not for people who want a free online spell to help them win the lottery. I pay to develop my own patience and tolerance while wading through hundreds of “send me a free spell” emails.

2. Are the original reasons I started these businesses still important, and if not, are there new reasons to keep going?
Yes. Not only do we have a group of advanced students who have been with us for more than a decade and really take part in bringing magic and shamanism into the world, but teaching the classes and creating the materials keeps me in touch with my own spiritual practice.

3. Is there a way to change my business model to fit this new economy?
Definitely. Offering the information in different online forms, from YouTube videos to webinars, is the way I’m going. It makes the information more readily available, and can be transmitted at the speed of light. It takes work to convert the material to online form, but it’s happening little by little.

What About You?
So those are my answers, good, bad, or ugly. What about you? How is your small business treating you, and how are you treating it? Is it time to re-evaluate your reasons for owning a small business? Is it time to change the way you run your small business? Most importantly, do you still remember what is important about your small business?

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