By Victoria Nicol, Merton Chamber Chair

“Have you ‘done’ the school books yet?”. It’s the song of September. Cover the school books! Label every conceivable item of school uniform. Make a dash to WH Smith before they run out of that super skinny tape that will fit along the side of a Staedtler 2B perfectly.

I’m sure there are stationery addicts out there who love nothing more than staring at a neat pile of perfectly covered, bubble free exercise books and neatly labelled pencils. I’m just not one of them.
Will our children’s academic success and social acceptance be compromised if we send them to school with naked books? I’m reasonably sure Mrs Einstein didn’t spend hours ensuring Albert’s book covering was bubble-free.

As I was pondering on these important life questions, I realised that in the world of business we often do things for the sake of doing them, without questioning why. When our old ways of doing things are working, we have no reason to question. But technology, our customers, the environment around our customers and the market are all changing, so it is essential that we develop a questioning mindset.
Children learn by asking questions. It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights. Questions are the best way to gain deeper insights and develop more innovative solutions.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, “We run this company on questions, not answers.” He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers. Isaac Newton asked, “Why does an apple fall from a tree?” and Charles Darwin asked, “Why do the Galapagos islands have so many species not found elsewhere?”. All the great inventors and scientists asked questions.
I am not suggesting that as business owners we spend our days being so contemplative, but we should nonetheless, ask the vital questions about the situations we face. It is the best way to get the information we need to make informed decisions. And for small business owners, it is the single most important skill we need to succeed in selling our products and services. Great leaders constantly ask questions and are aware that they do not have all the answers.

When was the last time you asked yourself and your team “What business are we really in and what is our added value?”
If like me, you are preparing your kids for the new school year, why not do the same with your business? As a Chamber member, you can book a free, one-hour Business Review with one of our expert business advisers, resulting in an agreed action plan. Once you’ve mapped out your business needs, you can also consider joining one of our workshops all geared to helping you grow your business, be sure to look out for our new marketing workshops launching in the Autumn!

Like sticky-back plastic, asking questions is a skill that can be developed, and whether you are a start-up or an established business, our Merton Chamber Business Service is all about your growth as a leader, and the sustainable growth of your business.

But for me for now, it’s back to the business of covering the school books. I am going to pour myself a large glass of wine and then I’m going in. It’s like Man Vs Wild, only far more serious.

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