Approximately 99.9 percent of all businesses in the United States are small businesses according to the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy (SBOA). In total, these types of companies employ almost 60 million American workers.
That alone is something to be proud of, especially if you are a small business owner. Yet, filling this role successfully—which increases the odds that you’ll continue to be a business owner for a good length of time—requires that you be able to answer five very specific questions in one sentence or less.
The reason you must be able to answer these so succinctly is because, when asked them, your interviewer likely wants the short and sweet version. This version also provides more clarity for you when it comes to your business, which is always good. So, what are those five questions?
What Is It You Do?
Put another way, how do you make your consumer’s life better? What impact do you have on them, whether directly or indirectly, that would cause them to want to buy your products or services?
One way to approach this question is to frame your answer in this way: “You know how [enter problem you help solve]? Well, I help my customers overcome this by [enter your solution].”
Even if your small business is somewhat complex, providing a simple answer like this gives others a better idea of what it is you do without confusing them with the exact specifics of how it is you do it.
How are You Different than Your Competitors?
Because there are so many small businesses in existence, 30.2 million in total according to the SBOA, you really need to stand out against your competitors. So, what makes you different?
Is your product or service better? If so, how? Is it higher in quality? Or maybe it’s customer service where you excel?
There really is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s just a matter of being able to tell the rest of the world why they should pick you over everyone else offering the same type of goods.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
This is kind of Business 101. If you don’t know who your target audience is, you’re going to find it extremely difficult to reach them in a way that resonates enough to compel them to make a purchase.
If you don’t already know the answer to this question, imagine that you could only have one customer or client. What does that person look like? Is the individual male or female? Old or young? Wealthy or financially strapped? What do their educational and work backgrounds look like?
Don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper too and consider their likes and dislikes, fears, habits, food and music preferences, and more. The better you know your target audience, the easier it will be to create advertisements that speak to their hearts.
What Is Your Goal or Mission?
Nowadays, many people are choosing the companies they do business with not only for the products and services they provide, but also because they stand behind their mission. With that in mind, what is your mission?
Another way to look at this question is: when it all comes down to it, what is it that you strive to do? For example, if you own a water purification business, is your mission to ensure that all people have access to clean drinking water? Or if you founded a small business that provides web design services, is your goal to help other small businesses create an online presence that attracts more customers?
Your answer to this question helps others see why you get up every day and do what you do. It also serves as a road map for your small business, making it easier to stay on your desired path.
What Is Your Exit Strategy?
When you first start a business, it’s likely that you’re not thinking about getting out. However, as Steven Covey says in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you should “begin with the end in mind.”
Once you’re ready to hang up your work shoes, how do you see this playing out? Will you sell your small business to someone else, for instance, or simply close up shop and walk away?
By deciding this up front, you’ll be able to better position yourself for that exact scenario. And that’s a great position to be in.