A thinking man, it was Voltaire who said, “Judge a man by his questions” and you know, I’m inclined to agree.

No doubt you’ve heard it many times too. It’s possible to judge the quality of a person’s life by the quality of their questions.

Without wanting to philosophise too deeply, business is certainly an arena in which we’re caused to ask questions, many of them challenging.

When we ask the right – or better – questions, we increase the chances of changing the outcome for the better too.

Without insight to the potential learning, we might ask, “Why is this happening to me?” rather than “What can I learn from this?”.

In business, this distinction in the quality of questions we ask could be the difference between a business that thrives and one that doesn’t.

With that desire for better outcomes in mind, I’m sharing seven questions I’ve know make remarkable difference to business when they’re asked – and answered honestly.

Q1  What can I do better?

If you only ever asked this question in your business, you’d be on the high road to continuous improvement every day of the week.

Asking “what can I do better?” assumes there is more we can do to create the best version of our business and ourselves.

It assumes that every single day we can try and be that little bit better than yesterday.

More about incremental tweaking rather than monumental step changes, asking “what can I do better” is closely linked to personal and professional mastery.

If you’re like me, you’d prefer not meet the man or woman you could have been. This means doing what it takes to be the best version of yourself. In business, it means creating the best possible version of your business.

Make it a habit to ask, “What can I do better” and look out for the transformation.

Q2  What’s my big game?

High performance athletes will map out their competition season well in advance of the season starting.

Paying attention to every tiny aspect of their training regime, preparation encompasses the physical and mental in equal measure.

Why? So they’re ready for the “big game”.

For a Queensland rugby league player, it might be ensuring their fitness peaks mid-season to coincide with State of Origin games.

An ironman triathlete may work their year around the annual Hawaiian Ironman World Championship.

A dental practice owner might choose a revenue target for the financial year.

It doesn’t matter so much what your big game is.

Instead, what matters more is having one. It means knowing the timing of your performance peak. It also means understanding there will by mini-peaks and valleys along the way to the big game.

Without clarity around your big game, working in your practice can become a whirlwind of activity with no clear outcome achieved.

Q3  Have I done the two R’s?

Let me de-code the two R’s for you: reflect and rest.

Counter-intuitive for many business owners who feel it is only in doing that more is achieved, reflecting and resting pay dividends differently.

In fact, my own experience tells me that reflecting and resting even have a multiplier effect.

Confirmed in my recent interview with Brad Beer, a physiotherapist and owner of POGO Physio, Brad cites the importance of recovery.

Although Brad had trained as an elite triathlete in his late teens, he did not come to understand the importance of rest until he spoke with Nick Willis, a five times Olympian from New Zealand.

What Nick made clear was that while physical performance and technical ability were essential elements of his track success, the vital ingredient was rest.

In rest was found the time and space to reflect and return to the track re-charged. He found this made all the difference to his Olympic performances, which had culminated in bronze and silver medals wins.

As practice owners, this means taking time away from hands on clinical work to think, plan, strategise, and rest.

The nature of dental practice demands we provide care for patients. What’s important is to include ourselves in that care too.

Only when we’ve taken good care ourselves, will we be best positioned to care for others – and grow our businesses.

Q4  What’s the cost of the big game?

It’s one thing to have the big game in mind, it’s another to understand the price you’ll pay for playing it.

Getting clear about the price means you’ll have the right mindset to navigate and manage the inevitable challenges that arise along the way.

Does your big game require an extra commitment of time?

Is a bigger investment warranted?

What will be the impact on your family, health, down time?

Taking a 360 degree view of the potential impacts upfront means you can be prepared – and prepare others around you as well; family and business team included.

Q5  Is bigger or better more important?

A personal philosophy I share with clients is that bigger does not equal better.

While the end goal might be a scaled practice, there are steps to better that must occur well before bigger even looks like it’s on the horizon.

There are countless stories of businesses that have gotten bigger – and busted. Maybe they grew too quickly, maybe the partnership went awry, maybe they were under funded.

The key to doing bigger well, is doing better first.

My view? Focus on better first and bigger will follow.

Q6  Am I clear about my why?

Simon Sinek famously wrote the book Start with Why and in doing so inspired a generation or two of entrepreneurs to clarify their “why” first.

Why is this important? Your why gives you purpose. Purpose-driven businesses are not only more profitable, they’re also more fulfilling for those in them.

Understanding your purpose is at the very core of you and your business.

If you’re not clear on why, it’s time to get clear.

Q7  Do I care enough?

There’s a tendency, as the demands of business operations take over, to neglect an essential element of service: to care genuinely.

And I’m not talking about just any kind of care. I’m talking about the kind of care that people really feel.

Maya Angelou wisely noted:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

In dental practice, this is reflected in:

  • How we treat our patients – Did we treat them like family?
  • The level of service we provide – Are we providing the bare minimum or going above expectation to realise an outcome that surprises and delights?
  • The time we take to really understand the person – Do we rush through the consult or do we try to understand what’s important to them?

I remind my own team, we’re treating people, not teeth.

It’s a salient reminder, because as humans, we look for connection. As dentists, we can provide the connection through genuine, heartfelt care. And it’s at this point the transactional becomes transformational.

A final word

Questions open up possibilities. They allow us to consider the potential, rather limit ourselves to what is. Make it a habit to ask better questions and better outcomes will follow.