J. Miller and Company Blog

January 28, 2003

18 Questions to Answer

Happy_new_yearNOTE: this letter was sent to me by a client — it’s good to ask ourselves these questions as we begin the New Year.

18 Questions To Answer . . .
If You Want To Succeed In The Year 2003 And Beyond
By John P. Hayes, Ph.D.

If you own or manage a business, even a small business that you operate from your home, or you supervise a department or a division of a business, this is the time of year to set goals and make your plans for the next year. In the next several days, make an appointment with yourself to consider the following questions. You might also invite members of your staff or family to join you.

1. How much money will I earn in 2003?
Now you might laugh about that question. It’s difficult for those of us who own businesses to project our earnings when there are so many unknowns. However, if you don’t know how much money you will earn, who does? If you don’t set financial goals, if you don’t plan to earn a certain amount of money, you’ll probably end up taking whatever your business (or employees) leaves you in 2003. But why not set your salary right now? Decide how much money you will take home in 2003. Write it down. If you don’t write it down, you’ll forget it, and then you won’t work towards that goal. Once you set the goal, have some faith that you can accomplish it!

2. How much money will my business gross in 2003?
Set that target now. If you wait to set this goal, you’re likely to end up with too little money in 2003. Decide now how much revenue your business needs to generate to accomplish all your goals, and then create action plans to make sure you hit the financial goal for gross sales.

3. What can I do to increase sales in 2003?
Make those plans in the next few days. Should you add more employees? Should you open another unit? Should you put on another truck? Should you open a new territory? Should you add new products and services? More sales equal more money, a higher gross for your business, and hopefully more money in your pocket. But it takes a strategy to increase sales. So how will you do it?

4. How can I decrease costs in 2003?
There are only two ways to make a profit. Increase sales and/or decrease costs. Now is the time to make these decisions before you get into the frenzy of a new year.

5. How much money will my business net at the end of 2007?
How much money will my business generate in five years? You need to create and maintain a five-year plan. Project your needs for people, equipment, space, resources, money, etc. Set a financial goal and work backwards to plan the specific steps you will take to complete your goals.

6. What will my business look like by the end of 2007?
Will I be selling essentially the same products and services? Will I have expanded the business, and if so how and where? How many employees will I have? What will they be doing? What will I be doing?

7. Right now, today, how do I feel about my business?    
On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten the highest mark, how satisfied am I with my current business? If it’s not a 10, what’s missing? What do I need to do differently to get to 10? Am I really doing what I want to do?

8. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
How have they changed, if at all, in the last five years? What am I doing better? Am I doing anything worse?   Where do I need to make improvements? Our businesses have changing needs and they require different skill sets from us.

9. How is the Internet going to affect my business?
The Internet has already changed the way people buy goods and services. How has it changed your business, if at all? How will it change your business in the future? Should you be marketing by email? Updating your Web site? Communicating with customers by email? Making it possible for customers to buy from you by email?

10. Who are my customers today?
How do I feel about these customers? Do I like them? Do I enjoy them? Do they pay me a fair price? Do they follow my systems? If you answer yes to these questions, you’re in good shape. If you answer no to these questions, you need to spend some time thinking about how you can change your customer base. Identify the right customer for your business. The right customer is the one who spends the most money in the least time and comes back repeatedly without disrupting your systems. Who are these people? Where can you find them? How can you begin attracting and capturing more of them?

11. Who are my ten best customers?
Identify them in the next few days. Write each a letter expressing your gratitude for their business in 2002 and years past. Then, invite them to dinner or to lunch in the first quarter of 2003.

12. Who are my ten worst customers?
Identify them in the next few days. Fire them! Get rid of the troublemakers. You really don’t need them. The energy that you’ll save by not hassling with them can be devoted to finding good replacements. And your employees will feel more energized too; they’ll start going out of their way to keep your best customers.

13. What do I know about my customers?                                                              
What more should I know? What data can I begin collecting in 2003? For example, maybe you’ve stored your customers’ names and addresses in a database. I hope you’re at least doing that, no matter what kind of business you own and operate. That’s a minimum requirement. But what can you add to that database in 2003?

14. How good are my employees?                                                                              
Skip this one if you don’t have any employees. If you’ve got employees, they are among your most valuable assets. What are you doing to protect that asset? Are your employees satisfied with your business? Don’t make the mistake of thinking that satisfaction to employees only equates to more money. Not true. They want to feel connected, and they want to feel – particularly the Generation Xers – that they are doing something worthwhile, or meaningful. Employees want to feel that they are respected and appreciated. How are you doing?

15. What does my family know about my business?                            
Do they care? Or do they not care because you’ve never shared information with them? How can you get your family more involved in the business, not necessarily as employees, but in a way that helps them realize that your business is meaningful, it’s satisfying, and it’s profitable? Would it help your family to know more about your business? Most families say yes.

16. What perception have I given my community about my business?
Maybe no perception. Maybe no one knows your business exists except for your immediate customers. And maybe you don’t particularly care, or maybe you’ve just never given this any thought before. However, this is an important point. Communities like to patronize businesses that are involved and visible in the community. Get involved in your community and get your employees involved, too.

17. What perception have I given my prospective customers about my business?
Ask this question: Would my prospects say that I’m working harder to get their business than my competition is working? That’s such a good question, and if you answer it honestly, you may see where you’re coming up short. We all know we have to work to attract and capture and keep customers. But how well are you doing in that area? Are you mailing letters to your prospects? Are you sending them cards, or email messages? Are you showing up at events where they will appear, too? Are you letting them know you’d like to serve them? Be sure to show your prospects how much you want their business. If your competitors are doing so and you’re not, who do you think is going to win more business?

18. What am I doing for other people?
I love what Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” The emphasis, of course, is on “enough.” Some of you may be helping many, many people already. Others of us, perhaps, could help more people. A gracious God has blessed each of us with talents and gifts and we have to be good stewards of our blessings. We can be good stewards by helping other people. Whether you help family or friends, employees or colleagues, or you help people in faraway lands, what’s important is that you help meet the needs of others. If we would all do more of that we would have a better world not just for our businesses, but for each other. Think about how you can help other people in the next year and beyond.

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