A business acquaintance of mine recently asked for advice to a question every entrepreneur dreads…How do I turn around my failing business? First off, there is no panacea for a failing business and every situation is unique even with best management practices, regardless of industry type.
I thought long and hard before giving my answer to my friend (which is contrary to my usual verbose knee-jerk reactions) and I finally told him about an exercise I learned of that was more in tune with psychology than business. I told him to write down everything he possibly could about his business, what the strengths and weaknesses are, the history of accomplishments the aspirations for the future and so on. After he answered the questions I told him to construct a boiler plate questionnaire of 20-30 questions that he had already provided answers for. I then told him to give the questionnaire to stakeholders of his business such as customers, vendors, shareholders, even competitors (the old adage keep your friends close but your enemies closer). He was shocked at the results that were returned.
The lesson is one of “know thyself”. The first time I learned of it was not in a business application, but a personal test. The goal was to answer a questionnaire regarding my personal characteristics and traits and then let my friends and family answer the same questionnaire that I answered about myself. I was absolutely astonished to realize the stark differences between what I thought of myself and what other people thought of me. Some of my perceived weaknesses were viewed as strengths in the eyes of my friends and family and vice versa. Sometimes like my friend you can’t see the forest from the trees when your in the trenches of day to day operations of a business. We become blind to our business’s faults. Seeing a fresh perspective from an outside source of what really fuels your business and what truly ails your business is the key. There is no better litmus test on how your business is doing or could be doing then hearing it first hand from a reliable but close source.
Don’t always pretend to have all the answers…it’s better to ask the question and find the answer. Then and only then can you devise a strategy appropriate enough to turn around your failing business.