Bahaa on Business: Questions every business owner must answer—but often don’t ask

Why do some businesses succeed and others fail?

Ever wondered why only a few businesses succeed while others, very similar, fail?

Businesses, both large and small, generally face a range of dilemmas on the road to success or failure.

Too often, business owners fail to pause long enough to answer some basic questions about their business. More likely, many owners do not realize the essential questions to ask themselves that, once answered, could set them apart from competitors and lead to amazing growth. So, let’s start there.

The basic business principles that I teach are sometimes called the Rockefeller Habits. These effective business practices center around a series of key questions that help define how a few companies make it and why the rest don’t.

Too often, we are told that our business requires a complicated business plan. Oftentimes, these plans, when completed, sit collecting dust on a shelf or a far corner of a desk. Long business plans are often worse than useless; this is why we’ve created the One Page Plan.

Let me be clear, however, that having a plan is essential to succeeding in business. However, the usefulness of the plan is determined by the questions we ask.

That’s why the Rockefeller Habits have, over time, developed questionnaires that prompt business owners to ask exactly the right questions necessary to build a highly effective strategic plan that will fit on a single page.

Yes, that’s correct, a one-page strategic plan that includes “the essence” of every essential element required for your business to succeed and grow.

Over time, I will explain the four key decisions ALL business owners face. These are the four elements of every business that will largely determine its success.

While these elements have hundreds of topics they can be summarized in four key categories; people, strategy, execution and cash.

In this column, we very briefly introduce these four key elements. In future columns, we will explain how to ask questions to determine their real impact on your business.

First, there are simple questions every business should answer about the “people” associated with their business; employees, customers, strategic partners and other stakeholders.

While we will explore these questions in a future column, you must know that defining these categories will reveal more than you think about your business.

Then, there is strategy. When asked, you should be able to very simply state to anyone your overall business’ strategy in one sentence, or two.

Believe it or not, some owners don’t have one, or at least can’t say it clearly and simply when asked.

Here is a quick example. Tom Monaghan started a business called Domino’s. His initial strategy was simple; “pizza delivered within 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.” Today, he is a multi-billionaire.

Of course, your strategy should be more localized, but you must have a strategy to stand out in your market. What are the essential, core beliefs of your business? In other words, what should it do or not do?

Then there is the essential “why” question?

Try defining, in one paragraph, your purpose (why does your business exist)? What are your financial business targets for the next 3-5 years and what are your one-year goals?

What specific steps are you planning to take to accomplish these targets and goals?

Have you identified your key thrusts and priorities, milestones and metrics capabilities to reach them? While doing so, your business will be best served if you honestly and objectively list your business’ strengths and weaknesses.

Just knowing the right questions to ask is essential, yet not enough to succeed. All businesses require a “process.”

From the sourcing of product, through sales and service there is, or should be, an end-to-end process that we will define as execution.

The smarter and more seamless the “execution” of your processes iswill, in large part, determine how successful your business can really become. Once you have identified all of the processes within each step in your business, even selling flowers on Main Street, the quicker your business will improve.

And finally, there is cash. Everyone knows that no business can run without a sufficient supply of cash to fund payroll, product acquisition, maintenance, sales efforts, etc. What few businesses understand, however, is how easy it is to ask a few quick questions of your existing business, then how making a few internal tweaks, can free up existing cash and bring more in the door.

So, in future columns, we will look at how small businesses in Seal Beach might utilize the Rockefeller Habits to improve their businesses, creating more rewarding customer relationships and find the cash to fuel their growth and expansion.

We will explore ways to create a one-page business plan using these tried and proven tenets of growing a business from Wall Street to Main Street, Seal Beach.

Just by knowing the questions to ask around people, strategy, execution and cash, we can begin to formulate a snapshot of our businesses that not only points to the way forward but gives us a path to follow to get there.

If you have a business questions, send it to me at

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