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33 No-Nonsense Questions That Can Drastically Improve Your Business

critical thinking in business
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It’s an interesting thought that questions could improve your business, right? If you’re looking for questions that can help you level-up your business, you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll get 33 questions that can improve your critical thinking in business, and an inspirational story that can help you take your business to the next level.

Questions are the beginning of a journey to improve your business.  “One revelation can create a revolution”, said Richard Montanez, creator of Flamin Hot Cheetos.  Often times our revelations come from simple questions we ask ourselves.  You could be one question away from taking the glass ceiling off of your personal and business earning potential.

critical thinking in businessThe Montanez Story

In an interview hosted by the Passionate Few, Richard Montanez shares his story of how he started out as a janitor making $2/hr and became one of the most reputable execs in the world!

He had stopped formal education at the 4th grade to work picking grapes and helping to support his family.  He always thought he would “grow up” to live “just getting by” because he saw poverty went back for generations.  He said his father and grandfather didn’t dream, they simply thought about how to provide the next meal.

Oddly for him, he was able to get a janitorial job at Frito for $4/hr, which was high in comparison to his expectations.  At a tumultuous time in the company, the CEO began speaking internally to the people in the organization.  He said he wanted everyone working in the organization to “treat Frito as if they were the owner”.

The statement “treat Frito as if you were the owner” sparked a revolution in Montanez.  As the janitor earning $4/hr, he felt honored to be invited to act like an owner, and he took it seriously.  He started to ask himself questions like, “How can I act like the owner?”, “What does an owner do?”, and the revolution in his mind went rampant.

He began to “act like an owner”.  He went out with the sales team to look at the Frito-Lay product displays.  Without knowing the terminology for it, he was doing “market research”.  He noticed a competitive advantage that all of the other companies had over them.  Frito didn’t have chips that had varieties of seasoning options like their competitors!

He decided to take some unseasoned bags of chips home, where he and his wife began experimenting with seasoning recipes.  They created a recipe they were proud of, and began letting others taste it.  After hearing many people rave about the recipe, Montanez decided to call the CEO of Frito-Lay.

In short, the experiment of Flamin Hots was transitional: it started small and scaled, but today, it’s one of the bestselling bags of chips in the world, and it started with a simple revolution in his mind.  Now, instead of being the janitor, Montanez is the Vice President of Sales for PepsiCo America, the holding company of Frito-Lay.

See the full interview here.

Sometimes, it’s Innovation or Work Ethic You’re Missing

Your revolution could begin with one simple question!  Montanez is not the only that believes in the power of one simple revelation.  The most sought after business consultants across the world gain insight to help businesses scale and grow from asking the right questions.  The right questions could help you to scale in massive ways!

Often times, people think they need capital, connections, or something else externally, but in fact, they need to be innovative or disciplined.  When you listen to many successful entrepreneurs, most of them have to creatively overcome many challenges like having enough capital, having enough time, having enough connections, or having enough health, and unfortunately, they don’t always overcome by “getting lucky” or having some infusion from the outside as their miracle.

Sometimes, they have to sit down and ask themselves some tough questions, build their innovation muscle, and create results for themselves.  I’ve written 33 questions to spark the innovation in you and enable you to begin “cracking the code” to scaling your business.

critical thinking in business33 Questions to Propel Your Business

1. What is my quarterly metric for success?

Entrepreneurs must have a clear metric their striving for.  It could be:

    • A quanitfiable metric for brand awareness
    • Sales volume
    • Profit margin
  • Conversion %
  • # of leads
  • Size of email list
  • # of social media followers
  • or so on…

You decide the metric that achieves your business objectives most, be clear, and go for it!

2. What key performance indicators can I track to see if I’ve reached the goals?

If success = (BLANK), then what are the contributing factors to that success?  What milestones would you have to meet to decide whether you are on track or off track?  Key performance indicators are metrics you plan to use to quanitfy your success.  Quantification is crucial.

critical thinking in business3. Who are some inspirational businesses that I can get ideas from?

It’s so much easier to have a clear role model than to “shoot in the dark”.  If you can find business models you like, course ideas that you like, auras that you feel serve your customer well, or other characteristics that can inspire you, it can help you to make strategic decisions about where you may want to go with your business.

4. What are the components of my sales funnel?

You may or may not be surprised that many entrepreneurs do not have a clear funnel (not referring to technology).  I’m referring to the process of engaging with someone who may or may not be looking for the solution you offer and providing them enough information, building enough trust, and engaging with them enough that they decide to buy.

If you haven’t thought about your sales process, now is the time you should…

5. What are some quotes I can use as inspiration when I’m not feeling motivated?

We all get discouraged at some time or another.  It’s important to have a rolodex of mantras that you say when you get discouraged to build yourself up again.  When people say “Your product sucks!”, what do you say to yourself?  When people discourage you, what do you say to yourself?  Control your circle of influence by maintaining quotes that are your resilience ammunition.

critical thinking in business6. Am I balancing my health with my business well?

Often times, we (entrepreneurs) get so driven by our businesses, that we can neglect sleep, eating well, or even things like using the bathroom and taking a shower.  Having a vision of a business can really be motivating and compelling, and before you know it, something you SHOULD HAVE done got ignored.  If you want to be an entrepreneur and impact people positively for the long term, you have to prioritize your health.

7. Am I fulfilling my other valuable priorities or is my time too allocated to my business?

In addition to having a business, you also have other priorities.  Entrepreneurship has meaning beyond the workplace and the work.  Maybe, you have a wife, children, a sister, brother, mom, dad, friends, church, community organization, or otherwise.  Unfortunately, our drive to work in our businesses can make us seemingly, put everything else in the closet and “throw away the key” until it may be too late.  Don’t wait until you get divorce papers, the call someone is injured, or a bitter relationship before you nurture your other priorities.

8. Have I created a system-based business where I can replace myself, or have I created a job that has no value or operation unless I actively work?

Creating a system-based business is the saving grace of entrepreneurs.  If your business is reliant on you, it cannot be succeeded by others and it becomes less valuable if you try to sell.  Added onto the low-value others may perceive in the market, a business that relies on you can become like a trap.  You can’t take days off, customer orders get behind when you can’t keep up, your money stops and starts when you work, and it ends up being that you’ve created a job rather than a business.

critical thinking in business9. Am I stuck in the infancy or adolescent business stages? If so, why?

In my previous article, 2 Most Common Small Business Growth Stages Where Entrepreneurs Get Stuck, I talked about how the adolescent and the infancy stages are the two most common places for entrepreneurs to get stuck.  As a result, they’re not able to take the business to serve all it should and it doesn’t reach its potential.

10. Am I experiencing any of the 10 most common reasons small businesses fail in my business? If so, how can I change this?

Believe it or not, studies show why small businesses are failing.  The numbers are astronomical!  If you haven’t looked at the 10 most common reasons their failing, you should.  It’s easier than you think to fall into the traps that lead to failure, but if you learn and apply knowledge, you set yourself up for success.

11. Have I begun job prototyping?

To avoid “getting stuck” in the infancy or adolescent growth stages, you have to learn how to delegate rather than abdicate.  It’s too common for small business owners to hire, then hand over the job without accountability or instruction.  On the other side of the spectrum, the small business owner feels like they’re the only one who can do the job, so they constantly get in the way.  Job prototyping is where you sit down and create thorough training that would enable anyone to do what you do.  Very successful businesses master job prototyping, and they’re able to scale and grow companies that can scale very large.  Without a good prototyping practice you wind up with inefficient scaling practices or by yourself.

12. Do I have a clear client fulfillment system that enables my clients’ expectations to be met whether I deliver the product or service or not?

The Client Fulfillment System is one system of the seven systems that all businesses should have if they want a longstanding business.  You have to take time off, have some freedom, and still be able to balance the impact the service you offer makes to the community.  Putting systems in place allows you to be effective, but still enables you to be an individual separate from the business.  Look at a business system like the US government, McDonald’s, or Walmart!  They are all built well enough that different leaders can lead the organization, but still deliver comparable results to their citizens and customers.

critical thinking in business13. How can I create instructions clear enough that others can be trained to deliver my products and services to exceed my customers expectations without me?

Entrepreneurs are heros to the economy.  We are movers, shakers, and action-takers, but we get overwhelmed too.  When we are unable to separate ourselves to work ON the business rather than IN the business, when we cannot maintain a sense of balance between personal time and business time, or when we are so busy doing that we can’t figure out how to lead, it gets overwhelming!

To avoid the overwhelm, it’s important to create crystal clear instructions that enables others to be successful doing what we do.  The system can enable us the freedom we originally desired when we chose to become entrepreneurs.

14. How will I handle it when I get an excess of customers?

Don’t wait until the supply and demand is imbalanced to create the systems.  Plan early.  When you’re building the business, consider how you can scale seamlessly, what positions you may need, what dolloar amounts and expense ratio will enable you to hire effectively, and so on.

15. Do I have a blueprint to scale my business?

Builders need blueprints.  Scientists need blueprints.  Heck, as hard as everyone describes rocket science to be, you’d think the IQs would be too high to need a blueprint, but even the “Rocket Scientist” need a blueprint.

Entrepreneurs also need a blueprint–something that says:

  • This is what we’re trying to make
  • These are the necessary pieces and parts
  • These are the skills and expertises we’ll need on board
  • and so on…

If you don’t have a blueprint, make your blueprint now.

critical thinking in business16. Do I have a written organization chart that forecasts the necessary positions to operate my business at optimal levels of success?

The organization chart tells what positions are needed and who reports to who.  Confusion in leadership and poor planning can cause major setbacks in organizations.  Creating an organization chart can enable you to forecast the organizational structure before a bottleneck.

17. How can I create sufficient operating instructions to take my business operations and duplicate them hundreds or thousands of times to get the same quality standard for my customers?

Even if you have no plans to sell franchise licensing to your business, it’s still helpful to look at how they’ve created the business prototype, and enabled others to buy the instructions to run a successful business.

Take a franchise like McDonald’s, for example, they have enabled millions of people with no business experience to have a job and generate money.  Each franchise generates an average of $2.5 million in annual revenues, the franchisor gets 15%, over 68 million people are fed by McDonald’s per day, and billions of dollars in wages are paid out every year.

18. How many people do I want to impact with my business?

What’s your vision for your business?  What’s your purpose for running your business?  If you don’t have a clear end goal, then you tend to focus on day-to-day tactics.  You’ll think about how to do tactics better rather than how to achieve the big picture goals.  It’s much more fulfilling in the long run to clearly have long-term directional goals rather than day-to-day goals.  If you haven’t created your vision and purpose statements, you should definitely take the time to create them.

critical thinking in business19. Does my sales funnel work efficiently for my customer?

Little hangups can drastically decrease your sales conversion rates.  Things like slow website speed, confusing sales pages, unclear calls to action, weird positioning for purchase buttons, too long sales funnels, or leaving the price as a mystery can be offputting.  Experiment to see how you can increase your conversion rates and quantify the experiments with data.

20. What other Businesses Are Already Established with my Target Audience?

Have you maximized the power of leverage to get the most output from the same input?  There are companies who may have access to your target audience already that are not your competitors, AND would benefit from your complimentary relationship with them.  Time, money, connections, ideas, knowledge, and experience are all resources you can leverage.

21. How Can I Get into a Mutually Beneficial Collaboration with them?

To create a mutually beneficial relationship, you have to start out by giving or creating value.  Have you done the necessary research to ensure you know enough information about these influencers to easily arrange a collaboration?  If not, begin identifying ways you can create relationships with influencers to propel your business by the power of leverage.

critical thinking in business22. How can we make our lead generation system work more effectively?

Are you getting enough leads to meet business objectives?  It’s important to continue tweaking and reworking your lead generation system until it brings enough leads to meet business objectives.  You may have to:

  • Add more ad placements
  • Create more digital content
  • Find another traffic source
  • Be more persistent
  • Make more phone calls
  • Join another networking group
  • or, Be more interactive at networking groups

Analyze ways you can make your lead generation system more effective and efficient for your customers.

23. Is my lead generation system operable?

Are you doing lead generation daily?  If you or someone in your organization is not intentionally generating leads daily, your lead generation system is inoperable.  There should be something like:

  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Advertising
  • Networking
  • Calling
  • or, Emailing…

Done daily.  You cannot rely on chance to bring customers to you.  You have to be intentional.

critical thinking in business24. What is my lead generation system composed of?

Technology, personnel, scripts, and instruction manuals can create an effective lead generation system.  Do you have technology to help you drive leads?  Decide on components of a lead generation system that can allow you to effectively grow the business you’ve envisioned.

25. Does my lead generation require my active labor?

Do you have a website or other automation tools that help to bring leads to your business?  Who brings leads to your business and what do they say to accomplish this?  Systemize your lead generation system.

26. How can we make our lead generation system work more efficiently?

Cutting costs is like getting a raise, cutting time is like getting off early, and cutting stress levels is like extending your life.  Efficiency can add tremendous value to your business.  If your lead generation system is inefficient, it can take you too long to accomplish which can disable the execution, it can cost too much to maintain, or it can be too painstaking for your customers and lower conversions.  Decide whether your lead generation system could operate more efficiently.

27. What is my lead conversion system composed of?

Do you use website optins, webinars, seminars, physical location, one-on-one interaction, or how do you convert leads into clients?  Technology like landing pages, email marketing, and websites enable people to have sales conversions, but what is the process for you?  Decide what tools you use to convert buyers.

critical thinking in business28. How can we make our lead conversion system more effective?

What are your conversion rates? Hubspot says only 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates.  Without quantifying your conversion results, you can’t identify whether it’s effective.  Take the time to quantify whether your method is effective or not.

29. How can we make our lead conversion system more efficient?

Whether your lead conversion rates are effective or not, it’s important to consider if you can add efficiency.  Are there better more streamlined tools?  Is there a quicker process?  What can you do to add resources by minimizing output?

30. What are the pain points in my client fulfillment system?

Customer journey mapping is a process that helps entrepreneurs to think about the client fulfillment process from a different vantage point.  You write the pain points in the journey and brainstorm how to alleviate the pain points.  If you haven’t done a customer journey map, you should consider doing one now.

critical thinking in business31. Who would be able to offer highly relevant referrals?

There are three ways to increase referrals: increase cold leads (people you don’t know), increase sales opportunities with customers (people you do know), or ask people you know who they know.  Asking people you know who they know can give many great opportunities for you in your business.

32. Where are my most relevant growth opportunities?

It’s so easy for us to look at something or someone and identify areas where they can grow, but we often don’t take the time to consider these things for our businesses.    With a plan, you can see space on one side or the other that enables it to grow.  You can see that it needs fertilizer or water.  If your business is the plant, what would be the areas where it could grow?

33. What new products can we sell to existing customers?

As entrepreneurs, we are solution innovators.  Sometimes, we can be too focused on offering our solution to a wider audience rather than offering more solutions to the existing audience.  It’s much easier to sell to people who already trust you.

If someone is at Chick-Fil-A and they’ve already bought a burger and fries, it’s much easier to get them to buy a drink than to get a new person from off of the street to buy one, right?  Rethink your upsell opportunities and your product catalog to decide if you have opportunities to offer more solutions to people who already patronize your business.

A Playlist on the Power of Asking Questions and Practicing Critical Thinking in Business

I’m not the only person whose noticed the power of asking questions and practicing critical thinking.  Many people have noticed that because of the abundance of “How to” information, many people don’t develop critical thinking and problem solving skills of their own.  Here’s a playlist about the power of asking question and practicing critical thinking in business.

Final Words on Critical Thinking in Business to Propel Your Business Growth!

My goal here was to inspire you to grow in innovation.  Sometimes, it’s not an external resource that is needed to take a business from ground zero upward.  Work ethic and innovation are also necessary resources for business success.

If you’d like to start or scale your business, check out my free e-course. It’s a framework to grow your business from idea to enterprise. Check out the free e-course here.

Now, it’s Your Turn…

What questions helped to spark innovation for you in your business?  How did the probing help you?  What results have you seen from asking simple questions?  Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below.

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