The 3 Questions Every Business Owner Must Ask

What really holds you back? Here are three soul-searching questions every entrepreneur must ask of him or herself.

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Businesswoman on blurred background touching and holding hand drawn question marks
Businesswoman on blurred background touching and holding hand drawn question marks

Have you ever found yourself wanting to grow your business, but holding yourself back because you were afraid you’d have to sacrifice your life to do it?

Feeling as if your only two choices were to grow the business by working harder, longer hours, or to settle for less but at least get some of your time back?

I know I used to feel that way.

In fact, I can remember journaling back in 2001 about how hard it felt like I was working, and how close I was to burning out.

At that time I was working 70 hours a week, and on the road teaching workshops 10 days a month. I loved the way the business was succeeding, but I hating feeling like if I ever stopped running on the treadmill the whole thing would come crashing down.

Plus, as we grew, it felt like I was just adding to my overhead and responsibilities, all of which just increased the pressure I felt.

It was right at this time in my life that one of my business mentors asked me three questions that changed my business perspective forever. I want to share these three questions with you in the hopes that they jar you into seeing your choices fresh.

Question One: “David, what is it that you really want?

I told him that I really wanted the business to continue growing, but not to feel like it was all up to me to drive that growth. I shared that I felt proud of the impact our company was having on the lives of our clients and their families, but that the pressure was smothering me.

Question Two: “David, what are you really afraid of happening?

That was easy, I told him that I was afraid that if I didn’t closely manage all the details of my business then things would fall through the cracks and it would cause serious harm to the company. Clients would leave us; vendors would overcharge us; and our reputation would be permanently damaged.

I shared that I was afraid that not only would things start to fall apart, but now that we had a larger staff and higher fixed overhead, I was afraid that it would mean the financial ruin of the company.

He stayed silent a little longer as if willing me to look deeper. It was then that it hit me like a ton of bricks–what I was most afraid of was the feeling of losing control. I feared that by trusting others in my business I would be out of touch with what was going on, and in that cloudy space of not knowing my business would crash and burn. As I said this, I realized how emotionally loaded and extreme my response was.

Question Three: Finally my mentor asked me, “David, isn’t there a better way to do this than trying to do it all yourself? What would have to happen for you to feel comfortable letting go of more and more responsibility inside your company?”

At this point I was open and got it. I realized that if I had strong systems that my team understood, and if my team knew what was expected of them and grew their ability to make decisions and solve problems themselves, reporting progress on a consistent basis so I felt in the loop, then I could still make sure the business was safe without keeping such a tight grip on everything.

So I started building my business, and my own “muscles” of intelligently letting go of direct control. My team flourished; the business flourished–growing at an annual rate of 100% per year for the next 4 years before I sold the company.

These three questions sparked me to change my approach to building companies. Now it’s your turn…

Answer these same three questions:

  1. What is it you really want from your business?
  1. What is it that you’re really afraid would happen if you let go of more and more of the direct control of your business?
  1. What would have to happen in order for you to feel comfortable letting go of more and more of the direct day-to-day control of your business?

You can grow your business and get your life back. And the way you do that is by stop focusing on what you personally produce, and instead focus some of your time on getting your business (your staff, systems, and internal controls) to produce more.

This is exactly the journey our business coaching clients find themselves on–incrementally growing their businesses as they continue to operate them. The surprising truth is that the only way to truly scale and grow your company is to reduce its reliance on you, the owner.

Done right, you get growth AND you get your life back.

I hope this short article challenged your past thinking and stretched your sense of what’s possible for you.

For a free tool kit with 21 videos to help you scale your business and get your life back, click here.

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