Make inquiries more valuable by framing them better.

By Randy Gerber


Undoubtedly, running a business is a tough job. Endless questions swarm your mind daily, but asking the basic, overarching questions can potentially steer you away from your end goal. Entrepreneurs often ask themselves common questions like, "What's the best way to fund my company?"; "Should I hire my spouse?"; and "Do I need a mentor?" While these seem viable, they don't exactly spark thoughtful questions about your wants, needs, concerns and hopes about your life, business and finances. It's those what to do next, who to talk to and what to focus on questions that are vital to survival and growth as an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs make challenges for themselves time and time again and almost all of them are unnecessary. Start expanding on your common questions to see what you're missing in your planning process:

Question:What's the best way to fund my company?

What you should be asking:How do I deal with the inconsistencies of cash flow? How do I finance growth?

These questions should be altered depending on where you are in your business. An entrepreneur in the early growth stages of their business should instead take cash flow into consideration, evaluating (and understanding) if free cash flow can be made available to invest back in the business. An entrepreneur at a more established level of business should be focused on financing growth. To truly understand the intricacies of cash flow, the entrepreneur must be brutally honest with what's happening in his or her business. If you skip that step, time and energy can be wasted searching for investor dollars, rather than focusing on business growth.

Question:Should I hire my spouse?

What you should be asking:How do I hire people I need but can't afford?

The devil is in the details. Asking a blanket question about bringing your spouse on board in the early stages of your business will provide an answer, but the right answer will only come if you're evaluating the type of role and the return on investment. The lens should be marrying the expense of hiring to a revenue source or operational efficiency to create more cash flow, rather than making a convenient hire.

Question:Do I need a mentor?

What you should be asking:Who can I talk to about my problems as a business owner?

Mentors, family members and even friends often provide advice that undoubtedly comes from a good place (these are people who care and want to see you succeed). But even then, the advice can still be wrong. As a business owner, it's more important to seek advice from the right people-someone who's "been there, done that," understands your industry and understands the struggles as an entrepreneur. These are the people who can truly provide sound advice.

Entrepreneurism is driven on innovation and constantly seeking out the answers to questions you don't know. The depth and variety of issues an entrepreneur faces are never straightforward, and almost never have a one-and-done solution. Getting the right answers sooner could mean saving dollars, growing faster and likely even getting a little more sleep at night.

Randy Gerber is the founder and principal ofGerber LLC, a professional services firm based in Columbus that works with first-generation entrepreneurs. Gerber works withclients to plan for business growth and understand what they want out of life, then puts holistic wealth management plans in place designed to help make it happen.