Most people in the entrepreneurial and small business arena run on a tight budget and time span. Learning to ask the right questions can drive and create opportunities. I’ve discovered that questions which seem simple — or even sound dumb — can actually be intriguing and cause you to think deeper.
It helps to ask a question in different ways. Here’s an example:
During a program I facilitated with some of our coaches, An entrepreneur said he didn’t see many opportunities for his business-to-business company because his potential client’s industry is restricted.
I began by asking: How many businesses or customers do you have? He said somewhere between 200 and 500 each year. The business had been running for five years, so we’ll assume a total of 2,500 clients.
I then asked: What industries do these businesses represent? If I were to sit down and go through them right now, would you say they are mostly medical practitioners, office buildings, lawyers, hospitals, restaurants, bars? He said most are in office buildings that perhaps have one or two doctors.
This simple question — Who are your customers? can generate new opportunities to explore. Can you offer your services to more doctors? More hospitals?
I’m not telling you yes, no, or maybe, I’m just asking the questions to help you think through your business.
You might say, Well Faris, my business is completely different! I am in the consumer business, and everybody is my customer!
I will ask you to do the same thing in a different way. Where are your customers? Are they in a specific zip code or geographic area? What types of work do they do? Start estimating whether you have ten or a thousand customers a day. Ask a single question and determine what opportunities you could grab based on what you already have. This works especially well for existing businesses.
The key from this discussion is to understand that good questions coupled with experience can help us create new opportunities. Sometimes, questions from those not in our industry can be even more powerful, since the question could come across as being “on the surface” to them, but becomes deeper the more you think about it.
BEFORE YOU GO
We see our blogs as opportunities for dialogue. Please share your thoughts as comments.
- What questions have you asked to create opportunities for yourself?
- What tools have you used to figure out new opportunities for yourself?
- Any other suggestions to cultivate opportunities for yourself or others?
Faris Alami is Founder and CEO of International Strategic Management, Inc. (ISM). He works internationally, presenting Exploring Entrepreneurship Workshops and other entrepreneurial ecosystem — related ventures.