Brain Food for Business Owners: Did you get better this year?


Answering fifteen questions every December could not only significantly improve your performance as a business owner. It could also have a positive impact on your employees, clients and business partners.

Let me explain. A classic book on success is Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” Hill wrote this how-to book at the urging of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who challenged him to talk to wealthy people and boil down their formula for success. Hill conducted interviews to determine how and why some individuals gain significant wealth while others do not.

The book sold 20 million copies during Hill’s life (he died in 1970) and 100 million overall, and it is a book worth reading and re-reading; perhaps every couple of years. It was first published in 1937, and the research was conducted during a time not dissimilar to ours, a time of economic uncertainty.

One major principle highlighted by Hill is that successful individuals perform planning regularly in an organized fashion. Under this heading, Hill suggests that owners conduct what he calls an “annual self analysis.” The objective of the exercise is to discover if the person conducting the analysis is moving ahead, standing still or going backward in life.

As the end of the calendar year approaches, this may be the right time for you to conduct this sort of review.  Hill suggests conducting this analysis each December so that any changes can be framed in the form of New Year’s resolutions.

Quiet reflection is sometimes painful but often yields great insight and results. Here are fifteen questions from “Think and Grow Rich” that any smart business owner would be wise to devote time this month to consider.

  1. If I had been the purchaser of my own company’s goods and services this year, would I have been satisfied with what I received?
  1. Have the purchasers of my company’s goods and services been satisfied with the purchases, and if not, why not?
  1. In what ways has my company rendered more service and better service than what the customer has paid for?
  1. Has my company delivered service to customers in the best possible quality which it was capable of providing, or could we imp2078834-mrove any part of the service?
  1. Has my company delivered the service to customers in the greatest possible quantity which we were capable?
  1. Have I personally attained the goal for which I established as my own objective for the year? This question is based on Hill’s research that suggests a person who desires success should set a definitive yearly objective to attain as one piece of a larger major life objective.
  1. Have I been persistent in following my plans through to completion?
  1. Have I reached decisions promptly and definitely on all occasions?
  1. Have my opinions and decisions been based upon guesswork or accuracy of analysis and thought?
  1. Have I permitted the habit of procrastination to decrease my efficiency, and if so, in what ways?
  1. How much time have I devoted to unprofitable effort which I might have used to better advantage?
  1. How may I re-budget my time and change my habits so I will be more efficient during the coming year?
  1. Has the spirit of my conduct been harmonious and cooperative at all times?
  1. Has my conduct toward my associates been such that it has induced them to respect me?
  1. Have I been open-minded and tolerant in connection with all subjects?

The easiest way to tackle these questions is to address five at a time over a period of three days. Even the busiest owner can carve out some time to think through these questions.

To insure accuracy, Hill recommends that the answers be reviewed with someone who won’t allow the owner any wiggle room when answering.

One thing I think you’ll find is that the principles of success haven’t changed much in the eight decades since “Think and Grow Rich” was published.

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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