If you don’t talk to yourself already, now’s the time to start.

(Most of the best business owners do.)

And the thing I want you to start talking to yourself about is your business. More specifically – I want you to start thinking about questions you’d benefit from having the answers to. Questions that, when asked, would generate data that you could use to improve your business.

Remember Big Data that we talked about a while back (for a refresher, here’s the post – Big Data, Big Deal)? Now I know Big Data can be an intimidating topic but hopefully, that post calmed your fears a little. And I hope to calm them even more in this post – by showing you how to go through the process of making big data relevant for your business. And it all starts with you talking to yourself… and knowing what kinds of questions you can ask to benefit your business the most.

The goal of asking yourself questions is to find insights within your data. To do that, you should let your questions guide you – instead of letting the data guide you. Instead of the usual “big-picture” view of most of my posts, in this post we’re going to get more detailed – listing some actual questions that will hopefully spur you into thinking about what questions you should be asking yourself. Then, in the next post or two, after you have an idea of your questions, I will be giving you the tools and insights to get the answers to your questions.

So, what are some examples of questions that you need the answers to?

The first thing to do is BE CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS. After all, if you aren’t, who will be? Think about questions you may have never considered before. Or questions you may not have known how to answer. These questions can definitely be industry specific. The better your vision and strategic plan you’ve laid out for your business, the better and more specific your questions will be. You should be looking for questions like these…

  • Customer-Based Questions
    • Which customers are most likely to leave my business in the next month/year?
    • What is my customer’s lifetime value?
    • Related to the above, how long do my customers stay with me on average?
    • What is my customer’s perception of my business?
    • What value does my customer see in my business?
  • HR- and Employee-Based Questions
    • How can I better engage with I employees?
    • How can I better recruit employees?
    • Am I providing the resources that my employees need to succeed?
  • Operations-Based Questions
    • What risks does my business deal with, and how can I help mitigate those risks?
    • Is my pricing at the right level considering the competition and the value I provide?
    • Am I offering the right product and service mix?
    • Am I optimizing my vendor relationships to get the most value from them?
    • Is there a better way to identify problems with my equipment prior to them breaking down and causing disruptions to the business?
  • Marketing-Based Questions
    • Are my marketing campaigns effective, and how do I measure their effectiveness?
    • What kind of marketing is most effective for my business?
  • Financial-Based Questions
    • Is cash flow hindering my business?
    • Could I use debt to more effectively grow the business?

Right now, you may be saying to yourself, “Self, those are all great questions… but I don’t have the slightest idea what most of the answers are.”

That’s OK. No one expects you to have all the answers. At this stage, we just want you thinking about the types of questions that will drive beneficial, data-based answers (i.e. can we look through your data and find the answers to your questions?). In a future post, we will take a look at what kind of data you might be able to put together that would answer these questions.

So, make your own list of questions. Hopefully, some of the questions listed here will get you off to a good start.

Now’s the time to start talking to yourself. Then we’ll teach you how to answer yourself. And pretty soon you’ll be able to have full-blown conversations with yourself about your business. But please do this exercise privately. The last thing you need is people you work with seeing you having a conversation with yourself in the conference room. The next thing you know, the scissors will be missing from your desk.

And if you don’t fancy yourself a “self-conversationalist,” you can always come by and chat with me about your business. I’ll help you work on questions and answers to help your business.

Good luck with your questions, and keep an eye out for the future post in which we’ll show you how to answer those questions.

In the meantime, feel free to talk amongst yourself.