Start asking yourself the right questions and watch your business grow

In today’s fast-paced, technological environment,  people are constantly retaining information through the internet and social media. There are many opportunities for individuals to access expert advice from all sorts of industries through the likes of online interviews, podcasts and Twitter feeds. Still, does this mean that all the advice that we have access to is useful?

The majority of the time, advice is context-specific. When somebody explains the tactics behind their success and provides advice to go alongside, this doesn’t necessarily mean the same techniques and methods will produce the same results for a different business.

What advice is the best advice?

It is second nature to look to other experts and industry leaders for advice when trying to optimise your own company capabilities. However, advice isn’t universally applicable across all sectors. Facebook’s famous 'move fast and break things' might work well for an early stage tech business, but might be inadvisable for someone in the medical industry, for example. Although it would provide a simpler framework for progression if advice worked in the same way for everyone, this isn’t always the case.

Generally the best way to progress is by practising and testing new methods until there is one that works well for your business and produces results. This can take a long time and once a tactic is found, an element of patience is required for it to be perfected. This, however, doesn’t stop people from looking for the ‘big secret’ that can take them to the top instantly. The trouble is that there’s no one thing that will transform your business. In reality you need to do hundreds of things well, and consistently, to reap the rewards.

We tend to be fooled by survivorship bias, where we look at successful entrepreneurs and think that the actions they took lead to their success. And while that is true, you don’t know which ones did and which didn’t. Just because someone credits their success to their morning routine of meditation and mindfulness doesn’t mean that it actually made a difference. There will have been thousands of people that did the same thing that never became successful. But you don’t hear about them.

Focus is key

To grow your company, ideas need to be customer-led and related to your specific business aims. The focus needs to be on a plan for the company’s future, as opposed to the advice given by other successful individuals as this may not be relevant.

Within a business, one of the most common mistakes is putting the main focus on tasks or clients who cause problems and difficulties for your business. This creates less time to focus on areas that work well for the company, resulting in decreased efficiency and ultimately jeopardising revenue. One of the greatest opportunities in the workplace is having a system or campaign that works well, and investing more time and money into this rather than into smaller projects which aren’t guaranteed to produce results.

Questions are the best form of development

Although there is some strong advice out there, the best enables you to ask questions about yourself and your company. Board meetings in particular provide much greater value by individuals asking interesting questions which will open a group of people up to an insightful conversation - a list of questions is more effective than a list of solutions. These questions can provide a helpful framework to encourage leaders to think about their business and relay new ideas to the team to be executed.

Three important questions to ask are:

  • What’s the most important thing that needs to be achieved in this business?
  • What three things are going to help you get there?
  • How much time will you dedicate to those three things?

These questions allow you to see whether your company’s focusing on problems that need solving, or looking at re-working campaigns and areas that are already productive and can be amplified.

In many cases, the most value is in the discussions that founders can have about previous, specific situations, relating directly to their business. For example, one leader may be deciding whether to implement OKRs and by talking to someone who has been doing so for a number of years already, they will discover what does and doesn’t work in the richest  way possible.

It’s unlikely that general advice will produce the results you’re expecting. The key is to find experienced and like-minded people who have already faced the same issue or problem as you, and can provide you with a scenario-specific solution.