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top questions asked by founders

How Do You Learn How to Start a Business or Operate an Existing Business? 

You jump right into it and then you make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Sure, that is how some people do it, but the SMART people (like you) do it by asking questions from people who have already started a business, or two or three. But herein lies the problem, not everyone knows people or has access to someone who has experience starting a business. 

There are solutions to this issue depending on where you live and who you know. But did you know that people who are from Jacksonville, Reno, or Omaha starting a business have very similar questions to people in Bengaluru, India, Calgary, Canada or Marrakesh, Morocco? We did the research and analyzed over 1,200 questions in the last 12 months and found there are 29 questions that get asked over and over by founders everywhere. 

How Do You Get Answers from Experienced Business Owners?

You can search online for experienced business operators who are publishing videos or blogs about operating their businesses. This is not easy – how do you know if someone has truly operated a business? Some people say they have, but they really have just run a donut shop as the manager. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but such an experience doesn’t give you the experience required to give other people advice. Therefore, finding the truly experienced people is hard, as you have to be able to vet someone as really good at what they do or not.t. To my knowledge, there is not a rating system for the experience of an entrepreneur… maybe that is a business idea… probably NOT! 

You can listen to people who at one point in their career were business operators. This is not a bad choice and there are a lot of them, but again, finding one that knows your particular problem may take more effort than you are willing to give.

You could go to SCORE if there is an office in your area. Many people have not heard of SCORE, but they have been around for many years and they are normally retired operators who like to help others out. Again this is hit-or-miss option, since this group typically skews older, and may not understand certain elements of your business as such. If you are looking for diverse opinions, you will not likely get them from the members of SCORE. Don’t get me wrong, though – these are good people trying to do good things.

If you live in a bigger city, what I call NFL cities, you will likely have other choices of accelerators or incubators but this is normally an application process and a well-planned undertaking with little flexibility. You can’t just email someone at the incubator for some advice on a particular subject; those groups all have mentors who are available to help, but again, you have to get through the application process. 

If you live in a more rural area or a smaller city, then it is probably very hard to get to talk to someone who has a lot of experience, just because there’s not a lot of such folks around.. Not to say there aren’t people in those cities who want to help–there are–but they are likely being asked by many people for help so, unless you know them personally, you’ll likely get ignored.

Post Your Question Publicly

When posting questions and searching for answers, you can always use Quora or maybe Reddit. But again, you don’t know without doing some research who is answering the question and, if you are on Quora, your question may not get answered at all. There just doesn’t seem to be an easy way to ask a question.

Here is a way that you can get answers from a very diverse and experienced group of founders: I hired a firm to do research on the most commonly asked questions by founders over the last 12 months, and what we learned after reviewing more than 1,200 questions is that there are 29 questions that get asked a lot. Founders of diverse companies in various locations are asking the same questions and they are experiencing very similar challenges. There are some minor variances, but founders are typically asking the same questions over and over again. A founder in Columbus is asking the same question as the founders in Sante Fe and Tulsa. But here is the super interesting thing: they are asking the same question, but the answers that they need are slightly different based on location, experience, background, and a few other variables. 

Same Question, Different Answer

A question gets asked by someone in a rural town in Missouri, who is a person of color and the first to start a company in their family. They have different challenges than the person in Austin, Texas who just graduated from the University of Texas and works for his uncle in a small business. They both could ask the exact same question but would get different answers from people who have similar backgrounds as their own.

What if we had the most asked questions from founders (like the 29 most asked? Get them at the end of this) and then had hundreds of answers for each question from a diverse set of experienced founders with various backgrounds, education, geographies, genders, and viewpoints? Do you think you would get an answer that fits your situation? My guess is YES.

Get Answers at #AskMikeG

This is what the #AskMikeG project is all about: Getting answers to questions that we know hundreds of founders want answers to and then getting leaders from all walks of life, different areas, diverse backgrounds, and a myriad of personal challenges to give their best responses to the 29 questions that founders are asking. Follow #AskMikeG on LinkedIn.

We have started with some of the members of the INC 5000 list. We are doing live video interviews, audio-only interviews, and in-person interviews and posting them here and on LinkedIn using the hashtag #askmikeg

If you are an experienced founder who would like to answer some or all of the questions and help others, send me an email mike@michaelgrabham.com. 

If you are looking for answers from more experienced founders, provide your email below and we will give you updates when we publish new answers each week.

If you would like to get access to the PDF report on the top 29 questions just put your email below and you will have it.

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