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Sitting on the edge of my bed trying hard to choke back my tears I realized I would have to leave my company. I was making one of the toughest decisions of my life. As an entrepreneur I felt that giving up my business was like losing a child. My deepest fear was that if I left the business I would be letting down my colleagues, my partners and my investors. I turned to my girlfriend and said, “If I turn away from this business these people will think I’ve failed them and that scares me”. I was convinced that if I didn’t turn this company into a multi-million dollar business then no one would have faith in me again. Then my girlfriend, an entrepreneur herself, gave the best advice an entrepreneur can ever get. She said, “You’re wrong about that, those people will all be asking ‘Gee, I wonder what exciting thing he’ll be up to next'”. She was reminding me that the most important attribute of being an entrepreneur is the ability to recover from your failures and start again. Guidance like that is invaluable.

So whom do entrepreneurs turn to when things go wrong or when they want to make their current success even greater? Most often entrepreneurs are isolated by their position as founder or leader of their organizations. There are few people that they can turn to or even talk to about the businesses ups and downs. Business leaders have slipped into the belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with credible and enthusiastic advisors. These teams of advisors include financial advisors, business leaders, legal advisors as well as executive and life coaches. The importance of support for any businessperson is very underrated. No person is an island and the more support a leader can arrange around them the stronger that person will become.

As I sat on my bed all those years ago I didn’t even know executive and entrepreneurial coaches existed. If I had I would have worked with one to ensure a smoother transition from one situation to another. Coaches can be important guides through periods of transition as well as during periods of quiet reflection. Entrepreneurial coaches are an awesome resource of support and experience that can assist you in developing your own innate talents as an entrepreneur.

Over my career as a serial entrepreneur I have stumbled across several golden questions that have been exceptionally useful to me. I ask myself these questions before I start a business and frequently during my involvement in that business. Below is a list of 16 questions you can ask yourself that will provide you with a head start in getting your business to perform at its best.

Sixteen important questions every leader should ask

  1. How well do you know your business and industry? Are you an expert in your field?

  2. Have you hired the best people you can afford? Second-rate people produce second-rate work. Employ people you know will be better at doing the work that you can.

  3. Do you have a plan? Have you written a business plan incorporating your marketing and financial plans? Write it in several formats – one line, one paragraph, one page, one document.

  4. Can this business scale and grow without your hourly attention? Can your idea grow to survive your absence? After all that’s why we create businesses, so we don’t have work all the time.

  5. Does everyone in the business have a specific role? Are the roles and responsibilities for every person in the business clearly defined? This is most important for partners and senior managers.

  6. Is there more money in your account each month than the previous month? This is what separates hobbies from businesses.

  7. Have you given careful thought to how you package your products and services? Help clients to decide what they want and then get out of their way.

  8. What have you chosen as the company identity? Create a culture based on the identity of the company – choose the identity carefully

  9. What agreement do you have with your investors? Investors are only interested in returns. Don’t believe it if they tell you differently.

  10. How do you and your people spend your time? Which activities are leading to profits and which to expenses? Activity doesn’t equal productivity.

  11. How do you manage expenses and liabilities? Cost conscious and value conscious are both important but not the same thing

  12. What is your company and personal focus? This is entrepreneur’s biggest challenge, staying focused. Don’t try too many things at once (if you do decide to do many things know that they will only perform at 50%)

  13. Who is the competition and what are they doing? There is no such thing as NO competition

  14. How do you balance work with relaxation? Burnout is a process not an event. It can sneak up on you.

  15. Do you really enjoy the business you are in? To truly love what you do, you must do what you love.

  16. What self-improvement education are you undergoing to improve your skills and expertise? Are you on a course? Are you working with a coach?

In general being the best entrepreneur that you can be might ultimately involve handing over the business to people that can run it better than you can. This is a tough decision to make and is the number one reason why companies fail. The inability of the founders to curb their egos is the reason why so many businesses fail. Working with a coach helps entrepreneurs understand the issues of the business from an objective point of view.
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This Entrepreneurship article was written by Richard Banfield on 2/14/2005

Richard is an experienced marketing executive, entrepreneur, coach, speaker, workshop leader, writer and business development person. He has served in a broad range of positions such as Founder, CEO, CMO, VP of Web Channel, Director of Business Development and Sales Manager. Richard currently runs Fresh Tilled Soil drives growth in companies by building sales and marketing systems that continually generate leads and sales.
He also lectured on the subjects of marketing and online advertising and have authored guides to sales, account management, global business development and marketing strategy. His career as a communications leader started as an officer in the South African Defense Force and since then he has spent the last decade building and running businesses, including four technology start-ups in the online media, printing, and software industries. He has also raised institutional and private financing, started businesses from the ground up and coached others to do the same.
You can reach Richard at