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The Power of Requests and Questions: How Asking Makes You a Successful Entrepreneur

The Power of Requests and Questions: How Asking Makes You a Successful Entrepreneur

A key attribute of a successful entrepreneur is his ability to make a request or ask questions. Even though this may seem like an obvious distinction, many entrepreneurs underestimate the power of asking.

The consequences of not asking can affect the progress of your entrepreneurial venture. Many entrepreneurs are still stuck in this notion of trying to become successful without asking for help. Unfortunately for them, they will struggle to get out of square one.

Successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates all owe their fortunes to their ability of making requests and asking the right questions. They all know the power of asking has helped them achieved their goals; their accomplishment were not carried out by themselves alone.

The power of asking will serve you greatly on your path towards entrepreneurial success. If you need further convincing, here are seven benefits of making requests and asking questions.

1. If you don’t ask, you won’t get.

No one will know what you want if you don’t ask. It is as simple as that.

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A major obstacle that many entrepreneurs face when they ask someone is the feeling of shyness and intimidation. You will be pleased to know that every successful entrepreneur was in the same boat before they made their first request.

A good way to overcome shyness or intimidation is to remember there is no harm in asking. The worst that can happen when you ask someone is that they will say “no.”

2. You save time.

You can save a lot of time by asking for help. Many successful entrepreneurs will agree with this benefit.

In 1969, a young Sir Richard Branson was arrested and spent a night in jail for smuggling a stack of vinyl records through British customs. He did this to avoid paying taxes. Fortunately for Sir Richard, the officials did not press any charges against him. In his autobiography, Branson wrote that after being released from jail, he learned a valuable lesson in asking people for help. If Branson had asked someone for advice on how to pay less taxes through a legal route, he would not have wasted so much time travelling and smuggling records into the country.

In order for you to save time, make a list of key tasks within your project that you are not fully comfortable in completing. It is important that you are honest with yourself when you make this list. Then ask the relevant people in your network on how to complete those tasks without wasting so much time.

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3. You get better at negotiating.

Not everyone is going to comply to your request, but the power of asking will help to improve your negotiations skills. You can improve your negotiation skills by adding a favor in return of your request. For example, if you are a website designer and you ask a caterer for their services at a discounted rate, you can add in a favor of developing their website at a discounted rate.

4. You build better professional relations.

It helps to understand both your colleagues and collaborative partners in the long-run. By establishing strong professional relations, your collaborative projects will be completed on time. You can build strong relations by asking your colleagues about their work habits and their strengths. Using this valuable information, you can develop a plan that can work around their unique traits.

5. You build strong customer relations.

An entrepreneur cannot succeed without his customers. Successful entrepreneurs know the true value of understanding their customers by simply asking them. Regularly interacting with your customers can reveal what is really in demand in your segment of the market. Thanks to social media, you can easily interact with your customers and retrieve feedback straight away.

6. Asking gives you a competitive edge over non-askers.

There is an old saying that many entrepreneurs still believe in and it goes:

“The world belongs to the takers.”

The above quote is far from the truth. The world of entrepreneurship and business really belongs to  “askers.”

A majority of entrepreneurs don’t take the time in making requests or asking questions. They settle for what is given to them. But you should use this to your advantage; entrepreneurs who are not afraid to ask will get what they want and they don’t settle for anything less. Be different; put yourself out there.

7. You get out of your comfort zone.

This is a big benefit. The power of asking can get you out of your comfort zone. It encourages you to interact with different people and helps you overcome any feeling of shyness/intimidation. The more people you interact with, the more requests you can make.

How to prepare yourself to make requests or ask questions.

The benefits written above show that entrepreneurs who ask around will progress much further on life. To help you start preparing your requests and questions, here are a few handy tips.

1. Know what you want.

This is key. If you don’t know what you want, then you will not know what to ask. It is as simple as that. To know what you want, get a pen and paper and write down your main entrepreneurial objectives. Then write a list of suitable questions and requests that will help you achieve your objective. Ensure your questions and requests are politely worded; a “please” and a “thank you” can go a long way.

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2. Find out who to ask and where to find them.

Only certain people will be able to comply to your request or question. If your request or question is about web design, then you need to ask a web developer/designer. A key tip to help you find the right person is knowing where they congregate. People who share a similar skill will congregate together often, usually at networking events or online forums. Do some research on these networking events and online forums, then take necessary action.

3. Go out and ask.

Mastering the power of asking takes trial and error. It is crucial to maintain a positive mindset when you start asking around. If you have experienced a string of rejections, use this an opportunity to review your questions/requests and see how they can be improved. Asking is a skill, it takes practice to master it.

Featured photo credit: Roo Reynolds via farm3.staticflickr.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

More Resources About Achieving Business Success

Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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