Do you really KNOW what you want to know?
I was in a room of executives when they were wondering how to get more customers. Sales were way down and everyone was desperate to make something happen. So, why didn’t they ask the right questions? Mostly no one spoke up because they were afraid. These highly skilled and well educated people were afraid of looking foolish in asking the right question or questions. I tell my son, “Smart isn’t what you know. Smart is what you do with what you do know.” So, getting up from my seat I did something – I asked the questions that needed to be asked.
- Were we the right people to turn the company around?
- How much time, money, and/or effort were we willing to put into changing the culture of the company to something customers wanted?
- Who is ultimately leading the charge to turn things around?
- How much power will this person have to make things happen?
How do you know when you have the right questions?
When you get to the point when people have to face tough questions and the temperature of the room goes up a few degrees you have a situation where the smart start moving and the weak make excuses. It is much easier to make changes when you ask the right questions from the start and get people out of their comfort zone.
Hypothetically, if you were asked by a good friend to help him with the same situation where he worked, what would you say? Very often we are too close to the situation to ask the right questions. Step back, use Bulldog Rule #10 – Leave the emotion out of your business (most of the time), and ask questions that come to mind. Write them down and then ask another question for every question you wrote down. Soon you will have a list of questions that matter. Cut out the questions that won’t impact your situation and then you have the right questions.
Like I mentioned earlier – Smart is what you DO! So, go do something. The right questions can give you the right answers only if you do something with them. Sitting in front of the path to success does not mean you will move down it. Get off your butt and move!!
There are too many people who are going to say that they are not in charge and can not make things change. You built a wall to keep yourself from changing things and you are the right person to tear it down. Changes come because you do something more today than you did yesterday. I have a friend who said, “If you could just improve your life 1% everyday in 100 days you would be 100% better.” He was a strange man, but he was onto something profound. Taking the time to change a company and ask the right questions does not have to be a big deal.
Remember – small changes make things better too and many times you can get a larger force to help you than if you try to change everything at once. Too bad there are many leaders who do not understand that lesson. Start small and change things. Do something smart.
The time when most people find out whether they are going to be good in business is when they are in school. No, not college or even high school, but in elementary school. That is when all the bad habits form and when the true nature of the entrepreneur rises. In school you were taught to wait and follow the rules. Line up, sit down, eat now, do this, go here or there. All independent thought is squeezed out of you.
The worst thing you could do in school was to look at the teacher because you may be called on to answer a question and being laughed at by your peers if you answer incorrectly – what a horrible thought. So, you were taught to keep your head down, follow along, and do not speak up or question things. Keep your head down and just follow the rules was your new mantra.
The true entrepreneur is that kid who asks too many questions. He finds ways to make things go more quickly and more efficiently, and is always, always in trouble for thinking for himself. School, from elementary school to college, is NOT the place to ask questions or offer new opinions. It is a place where real ideas go to die.
Can you tell I resent the waste of time I spent in those halls of supposed learning?
I tell my son, and I mean it with all my heart and soul, “Smart is what you do!” Intelligence isn’t in a book even though you do need to know things from books to do a job well. It also isn’t with a teacher who just rambles on about a subject, although there is something of value in those lectures (if you listen). Intelligence is when you take something you learned and do something new with it to make your world better. Entrepreneurs understand that from the day they are born. If more schools got kids out of their chairs and asked them to prove theories and create things the world would change overnight.
I have been supportive of my son who is a real entrepreneur. I encourage his new ideas, his inventions (no matter how outlandish they are), and his experimentation (although I draw the line at what he wants to do to my car). He is great with numbers, an outgoing person, and can see things that I do not. I listen and let him tell me a story about what he wants to see happen. At the age of three he came up with his own franchise. We are still working a few details out, but it will be great because in his mind he can see every detail. Can you imagine if you were given that kind of encouragement at a young age?
He gets in trouble at school for talking out of turn, for trying to do things he knows are right, and for doing things too quickly because he sees them as a time waster. I know this is something he is not going to out grow, but rather something he is going to learn to deal with until his time is done there. Smart kids figure out a way, don’t they?
Entrepreneurs drive people crazy (sorry teachers). They can’t help it. They think differently, act differently, and are not a ”follow the directions” kind of person. We all know someone like this…some people just need to look in the mirror. Entrepreneurs are the people who see past what is there to what we can do better. Thank goodness for them. I wouldn’t have the Business Bulldog brand if I had not seen how business could be run better.
I guess you would have to create a new sub-category for me and people like me, though. I see how things are and spend my days working to help others create their own path to success. Working with entrepreneurs is like herding cats sometimes and other times it is like running with the bulls. Sometimes you are lucky to get one person on the right path and sometimes you are lucky to get out of the way while they are running down a path.
I am sure you have some people around you that drive you crazy with questions or ideas that may seem plucked from some science fiction book. Do yourself a favor – shut up and listen. Hire at least one person like this. Encourage them to develop their ideas. Encourage them to ask more questions. Finally, encourage them to do something – Smart is what you do, right?!?
I want to encourage all of you to post a question on this site or even ask me a question directly. I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.