In many of my discussions with new entrepreneurs, I'm constantly asked, "How do i....(fill in the blank)," or "What should I do with regards to...(fill in the blank)." I came up with an interesting strategy in talking to these entrepreneurs. I was bantering back and forth with one particular entrepreneur a few months ago, trying to help him identify issues he needed to be thinking about, and then, in trying to get across my point, I finally said, "Imagine if your business was a person and not an entity. What would it say to you?" I found that this type of thinking makes a business person more apt to respond with solutions rather than questions and even more apt to understand what their business issues are. Imagine the dialog. "Hey...buddy....you need to email your customers more....they're feeling left out." or something like this, "Hey, Mr. Owner, my value proposition isn't being explained properly to potential partners - they're giving me these funny looks. C'mon, they need some hand holding."
This little game may seem like nothing more than a rearranging of deck chairs on a patio but I've found otherwise. I've now used this tact in many mentoring meetings and it really does change ones mindset as to the issues of their business. This is a game you can play by yourself but its particularly helpful in groups of two or more. You're already used to wearing more than one hat as an entrepreneur so just put this additional one into the mix. Let's play with some examples. If we assign revenue to be food your business might say this, "Pal, I'm hungry....lets not wait for the steak dinner I just need some fast food right now." This is a cute way of looking at your revenue and realizing you need to lower price/margins, bring in some paying customers, give some discounts, have a sale, etc. Ok, let's assign customer base to friendship/community. How about this one, "Ah, excuse me, I'm very lonely, is there anyone here to talk to?" This could be the fact you need more customer or partner outreach, more social media presence, run a survey so that your customers feel included, etc. For you entrepreneurs that are parents, this might hit home, "Um, Dad, I need more money....I need another pair of shoes cause Billy just got a new pair and remember that expensive baseball glove you bought me....well, I guess I lost it." This is a perfect metaphor illustrating that your expenses are too high because apparently, your business is wasting money on things it shouldn't be. You get the idea.
This strategy allows you to have some fun while attacking (and hopefully solving) business issues you might be having. Don't wait for a mentor to suggest this type of dialog. Educate them to it and then tell them to play the role of the business. I'm a big believer that we all learn in many different ways. You've got nothing to lose by trying. This might be one way that resonates with you and unlocks your ability to really get in touch with your business and what it needs from you. Let your business talk to you in human terms and then listen. You might be surprised at what it's trying to say.