Many people have this notion that if they follow the exact steps that a “successful” entrepreneur took to get to where they are today, they too will become successful. As a result of this mind-set, accomplished entrepreneurs are often asked what steps they took on their journey.
As a young man, I asked my mentor, “What’s the secret to becoming wealthy? Surely if it were as simple as reading a book on ‘10 steps to success’ everyone would be rich?” He gave me quite an unexpected answer, “It’s about knowing what questions to ask yourself and others.”
Of course it is necessary that you make the right choices on your entrepreneurial journey but, more important than that, is your ability to ask the right questions. An invaluable skill I’ve learned and one I still apply daily.
Knowing what questions to ask, when to ask them and how
The entry point of a question and how you frame it will determine how much information you will receive. It’s all about asking the right questions at the right time and in the right sequence. Start by asking open-ended questions and then tailor them to elicit specific information. When a person answers your questions, they give you a clue as to what the next question should be by revealing information and setting themselves up for the next one. Always take note of their tone, body language and answer. Often the information they don’t tell you is more important than what they have said.
Socratic Questioning is a technique where every question acts like a “lens” that takes a closer look and investigates what was not previously visible. You have an infinite number of “lenses” at your disposal and it’s important to know which “lens” to use – depending on the context – in order to “see” the right information.
A great question for an interviewee is “What do you and a lawnmower have in common?” This seemingly silly question opens a conversation which will allow you to ask more questions that will uncover a treasury of information about a person. If they respond that they don’t need to be pushed, you can infer that they are most likely a self-starter. If they respond that they like to trim the edges, you can infer that they most likely strive for order in their life.
Their responses will inform what the next question should be and the conversation will deepen.
Knowing what questions you need to ask yourself
The secret to shifting your own mind-set and therefore your business is asking yourself questions and answering them honestly. In many instances people answer questions with a “public” response instead of an honest, self-reflective one.
An example of an introspective question that entrepreneurs could ask themselves regularly is “Are you adding enough value to your clients?” If they answer this question to themselves with a “public response” and say they are definitely adding value, when deep down they know they aren’t, their business won’t shift because they are only deluding themselves.
If entrepreneurs admit to themselves that they aren’t adding sufficient value to their clients, they open up more questions which will lead to actions they can then take to change their current situation. After they’ve answered the first question honestly, they then need to ask themselves more questions, such as: “Why aren’t I adding value?”, “How could I add more value?”, “What do my clients perceive as value?”, “What are my competitors providing to my potential clients?” and “Will the value I am providing today be sufficient for my clients in a year’s time?” By continuing to answer these questions honestly, you will unlock ways to improve your business and its value proposition to your clients, thus increasing your relevancy and probability of growth.
Over the years I’ve become better at asking the right questions at the right time and in the right sequence. I have the following question stuck on the wall next to my desk: “How am I standing in the way of Raizcorp?” I ask myself this question daily. It’s not an easy one to answer, but through my being honest with myself, Raizcorp continues to improve and grow.