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  • John Hagerman


I work with corporate escapees who want to start their own businesses, so I spend a lot of time in online business groups and joining a lot of conversations. One of the most common questions I come across is, “What do I do next?” They might be talking about marketing, or getting financing, or finding new clients, or how to increase sales, or any of a myriad of other topics, but they all start with, “What do I do next?”

Most of the answers immediately jump to specific strategies, techniques, tasks to do, apps or tools to buy, etc. On one level, almost all the advice is good and useful. Unfortunately, almost all of the answers ignore what has to happen before any business can be truly successful. They assume success is all about doing a bunch of nuts and bolts type of ‘things.’ What they miss is the fact that success, especially for start-ups, isn’t about a magical to-do list. Great success starts with deep clarity around who you are, who your clients/customers are, and the stories and conversations you share with them.

There are key questions you need to answer in depth and detail, from your heart, before you can start making massive leaps in your level of success. (Before you panic, you don’t have to have perfect answers to all of these questions – 70% there, and a commitment to always trying to improve, is good enough to launch.

Here are SEVEN QUESTIONS you need to answer before you start a business:

1. What old stories and beliefs are blocking, limiting or distracting you? What’s the problem? Where are you now? Where do you want to be? What’s getting in the way? What empowering new stories or beliefs can you create to eliminate the limiting ones?

2. Why would your prospective clients/customers be nuts to do business with anybody but you?What is your expertise? What do other ‘experts’ in your field keep getting wrong, that you get right?

3. Do you have a magical brand story? Your brand story is about who you are, why you are in business, and why the world desperately needs exactly what you offer.

4. Who is your ideal client? Not just a surface, who might buy what you got answer, rather, who is the client/customer would you most like to be around every day? And what about you would be irresistible to them?

5. Do you have irresistible messaging? This is messaging that tells your story so powerfully, your client/customers will be begging to do business with you.

6. Do you have compelling offers? These are offers that answer any objections before they’re even raised.

7. Have you developed an authentic enrollment conversation? Enrollment conversations that flow naturally from you, and how your answers these questions, become invitations to have to be accepted, rather than sales pitches that come across like pulling teeth.

As someone who has successfully launched several companies, I know the answers to these questions can lay the foundation for success. Not having clear answers can cause a company to flounder or, it can cause it sink before it even gets a chance to float.

Just so you know, these are not questions you can flippantly answer in 10 minutes. They’re harder to answer than you think, but they’re far easier than most people make them. Taking time to answer them all, clearly, yields a lot of confidence, and genuine confidence is fundamental to any success.

Based on the answers I see to questions in start-up groups, too many people skip over these questions. It makes me wonder whether the commentors are simply getting by, or if they are running truly successful organizations? For my money, it’s worth the time spent to answer the questions thoughtfully, and clearly. After all, if you want a mansion that can withstand whatever wind blows against it, you build on rock solid foundations. If you build on sand, the house will crumble.

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