15 Questions to Ask Before You Start Your Business

by Alli Polin on March 9, 2016

15 questions before you start your business

A friend recently came to me full of excitement with a business plan in hand.

“I’m starting a business! I’d love your input.”

First, I had to check if she wanted input or if she just wanted congratulations and for me to echo what everyone else told her, “great idea!”

She insisted that she was more than open to feedback, she needed it. Either her idea was absolute perfection, or nobody was willing to step up to the plate with any truth that could be potentially hurtful… or helpful.

Instead of pretending that my feedback was wiser, or held any more weight than her efforts and instincts, I not only shared my opinions but also asked her questions. Lots of ’em.

Questions are powerful only when you take a beat to reflect. It’s easy to give the answer that you want to be true, but just isn’t at the moment. Believe it or not, we try to fool ourselves by glossing over the stuff that’s less than perfect and we look for reasons to prove ourselves right.

Nobody is there watching you. Put aside your eagerness to get the business going and check in with your heart, gut and mind.

Wait on applying to Shark Tank… Ask Yourself 15 Questions Before You Start Your New Business

Why this?
There has to be a reason you picked this out of the millions of other businesses that you could start.

What problem are you solving?
It’s nice to have a business but to be profitable, you need to solve a problem for your buyer. Ask yourself if it’s a substantial problem that someone would pay to fix or just a minor annoyance that they can easily research and solve on their own.

What separates you from the competition?
Throwing your hat in the me-too ring and depending on SEO to take you across the finish line won’t get you where you want to go. Know your competition and don’t compete on price alone.

Why should your customer change their current behavior?
Yeah, you think your idea rocks, but it will require your customer to jump through a few hoops that you think are perfectly reasonable. Are you sure they’ll be motivated to change? Why?

Does your approach make it easy for your business or easy for your customer?
Structuring your business so it’s easy to manage makes a lot of sense. However, you’re there to serve your customer, not for your customer to bend and weave to serve you. Find a way to achieve both.

How long of a runway do you have to get profitable?
If you need an ROI in days, weeks or even a month or two, you may be putting yourself and your business at risk. Give yourself some room for ramp up.

Will this be your sole income or a side hustle?
It comes down to how much time and attention you’re willing to invest. Be honest with yourself where this falls on your priority list.

Are you committed to going all-in at some point?
If you want it to be your full-time gig, and potentially your employees too, how will you know it’s time? Also, if you’re considering hiring someone else to run it full time while you work in your current job, it should tell you a lot.

Is your target (location) market one that you know and understand?
Most people start their business where they live, work and know. If you’ve heard that a particular location is a sweet local for your biz but you’ve never been, go now.

How much are you willing to sacrifice to make it work?
Starting up a business is hard work. There may be marketers telling you that they started with $0 and were making $200,000 a year within three months. You do the math. There are no magic businesses and all take sacrifices from you and your family. Don’t forget, success takes more than hustle. 

How passionate are you about this idea and how excited are you about the idea of starting a business?
Stop here and linger for a while. A lot of businesses can make a profit; it doesn’t mean that you want to get up in the morning and eat, breathe and sleep your new venture.

Before you plan for rapid expansion, how will you know it’s sustainable?
It’s great to have plans for franchises around the country but don’t get ahead of yourself. Beyond the P&L, what will your money, life and business need to look like to know that it’s working for you?

What are you most afraid will happen?
Nobody likes to think about worse case scenario when trying to be positive about the future, but it’s necessary. Mental toughness expert LaRae Quy teaches to be a positive thinker by embracing the possibility of failure.

What is the best possible outcome?
Have a big, robust, and tangible vision of the future. Make it something that calls you forth even when you want to give up.

How far are you willing to go in service of your success?
Everyone has a line in the sand. Know yours.

Bonus Question:

What’s stopping you?
You say you’re ready, this is the one. Are you in your own way? If so, move over and give yourself permission to make this happen.

After our conversation, my friend went back to revise her business plan. I can’t wait to see how it evolves.

What questions would you add? What questions do you wish you had asked yourself before you made the leap?

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Bazin March 9, 2016 at 9:19 am

Excellent reminders for those that are starting up a business! Have an amazing day Alli! Sharing with my community!

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Alli Polin March 10, 2016 at 1:45 am

Thanks so much! There are tons of people who say they want to start a business but it’s critical to have the right idea at the right time and have it be the right fit for you.

Thanks for your inspiration and connection!

~ Alli

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Corina Ramos March 9, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Hi Alli,

This is an excellent checklist for anyone who is ready to start their own business.

Taking the time to answer these questions is a great way to figure out which direction to go with a potential business.

Thanks for sharing!
Cori

Reply

Alli Polin March 10, 2016 at 1:44 am

Many thanks, Cori! I hope that people will use these questions before scribbling an idea down on a napkin and starting to run.

~ alli

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Terri Klass March 9, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Excellent questions especially the one – what problem are you solving?

Before I embark on even expanding my offerings I do a tremendous amount of research. It’s essential to be crystal clear on the problem you are attempting to solve and who else is trying. That gives you some framework to how to position yourself.

Thanks Alli and can’t wait to share!

Reply

Alli Polin March 10, 2016 at 1:41 am

Thanks, Terri. I like how you mentioned putting it into a framework. Sometimes it’s more than gut and pros and cons that matter. A solid framework makes next steps clear.

~ Alli

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