The Art of Self Discovery (aka Business Therapy) for Entrepreneurs

I believe that understanding where you are now is key to getting where you want to go. While knowing where you are today may or may not change where you would like to see yourself in the future, it can definitely impact and influence the path you take to achieve your goals as well as determine how successful you will be along the way.

What exactly does that (self discovery) mean? That means taking a long, hard look at yourself and your business to better understand what you already have to help you get where you want to go, and what else you need (a plan of action, the right people, the right tools, etc.). Basically, that self-discovery process assists you in understanding what is working in your favor, and what is not.

The Art of Self Discovery isn’t for the faint of heart, (but neither is entrepreneurship). The process begins with asking some really tough questions. Well, it’s not really the questions that are tough; it’s the answers (or lack thereof) that can sometimes be difficult to face.

For example, you might start by asking about your unique value proposition and/or how you want to be positioned in the marketplace. Are you being honest about what your product and company really have to offer today, how you truly stack up against the competition and what it would really take to get you where you want to go?

You may have put a lot of thought into a vision for your company’s future. You might have a fairly detailed idea of what that future looks like. But, have you asked yourself if you are the right leader to make that a reality? Or, do you have the right people on your team to help? What would need to change to get you from here to there?

You may think your customers are happy but have you really talked to them? Do you know about the pitch they had last week from your biggest competitor? Did you know they have a new director on board who doesn’t really know what your company does and/or why they have your product?

I recently went through this process with a new client. They seem to have a great product and a lot of promise, but their product plays in a very crowded space. While he wants to be at point F along his journey, I felt they were probably more firmly rooted at point C. I kept asking questions that “encouraged” the CEO to really think about the gap between where they want to be and where they actually are today, or at least how they are currently perceived. He wants to position his product as a unicorn when the customer may really looking for a cost effective, reliable horse that can help them win the race.

“This feels a bit like business therapy without the couch or the tissues,” he responded.

Yes! He hit the nail on the head. Individuals have therapy sessions. Why not businesses?

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Trying to figure all of this out on your own isn’t always easy (or successful). It can really help to have an outside party (business therapist of sorts) come in, ask those questions, push you toward those tough answers and help you put a plan in place for the next leg of your entrepreneurial journey. The trip will be a little easier if you are armed with a useful map, detailed insight about the challenges and opportunities you might face along the way, the right tools for the job and the best travel partners.

The business therapist could come in the form of an outside consultant or coach (like myself), or some other trusted advisor. I recommend relying on someone who can offer an unbiased outside perspective, pull from relevant experience and has no vested interest in your business (i.e. no spouse, no staff, no investors, etc.). 

Whether you want to try going it alone or choose to bring in some “therapeutic help”, here are a few questions to get you started:

What do you think is your unique value proposition? What is it that your customers really need (or think they need) and how does what you have to offer stack up against that? Do you understand how your value proposition differs when it comes to customers, partners and investors?

Who is your target customer? Who are the actual buyers? Who are the influencers? Who are your evangelists?

What is your sales process? What are the different stages of customer engagement? Do you have content (and expertise) to support each of those stages? Where might you fall short?

You may be on the right path today, but be prepared to have a few (or several) more “business therapy” sessions throughout your entrepreneurial journey. Ask for help when you need it. Look for a few comfy couches along the way. And, pack those tissues just in case!