Whatever the issue, the first step toward finding the right answers is asking the right questions. A few years ago Forbes magazine published an article on the most important questions for success and failure. Obviously, neither they nor we could answer the questions for you - the answers are always uniquely yours.

Here we give five examples (from well over 100) questions to get you started. Some are big picture - others are more detailed. Internally motivated people tend to look at the big picture and ask big questions, while externally motivated people tend to look at the detailed nuts and bolts of how things can work in a small area. Michael Gerber talks about these as the entrepreneur and the manager. Neither is complete on their own - we need both perspectives to get a complete picture.

Our model for a business is a rocket ship. As it races through space, there is always much to do, with monitoring and tweaking the performance of different parts, while always knowing where we are and where we are heading. We can't do much about space debris, let alone meteors, asteroids, moons, planets etc - but not knowing they're out there could be disastrous.

There are two major aspects. The external environment, which is largely out of our control but which we must always keep an eye on (just think of the way Covid-19 played havoc with almost every part of society), and the internal environment, which we can control.

The most common tool to analyse where you should focus most of your external attention is a SWOT analysis.

Business people should always ask "How can my business more adequately meet my goals?" That requires you to have defined your goals, so if you haven't that may be a useful first step. The usual procedure from there is to then define your objectives and plan your strategies from there.

If you are facing an urgent crisis, be it cash flow, staffing or some other issue, then you need to deal with these issues first. Return to these questions later, although you may then find ideas you wish you'd thought of when solving your immediate crisis.

These are just samples of the many questions that could be asked, and there is no right answer that applies to each business. We have suggested a way to work out the best answer for your business for one sample question from each segment. You can apply that example to every issue. A few issues might not apply to your business (e.g. if you have no inventory, ignore them), but even if you are currently the only person in your business, ignoring all people issues will probably cause regrets. The solutions themselves cannot be copied from business to business - they need to be tailored to your business.

We aim to start you on a path to continual enhancement. The second law of thermodynamics says the entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. In other words, if you do nothing, things will get messier rather than tidier. If you have ever had a garden you'll know what happens if you don't keep on top of it.

Of course, starting is relatively easy. Keeping going consistently in the long term is more challenging - particularly if you don't know what effect you're having on the issues. You can only manage what you can measure. When you ask a question, you need to know what your current measures are. Most business areas have a small number of KPIs (key performance indicators) that are crucial. Which of the myriad of measures is another question, but you must have a measure before you start changing things. Otherwise, you cannot know how successful (or not) you have been.

An example is working capital. We've chosen one example (debtors) because it is almost universal (except for cash businesses). But inventory is also common - and these are not the only working capital issues.

As with any third party, answers we might suggest will always be incomplete for your business. Complete answers can only be based on your detailed knowledge and understanding of your business and people. We aim to provide tools and systems to combine with your passion and knowledge of your unique business to let it really fly.