The Power of Assumptions

Franne McNeal
Franne McNeal
Entrepreneurs know that running a business is challenging. But why do some entrepreneurs seem to bounce back or plow forward and others get stuck in a rut?

As a coach, I find that the mindset of the entrepreneur makes the difference. Specifically, the way that entrepreneurs look at situations, literally whether they view the situation as a problem or opportunity, shapes the outcome of the situation.

Consider that these 5 assumptions:

1. What we focus on becomes our reality

2. In every situation, something works

3. Looking for what works, motivates people

4. The act of asking questions activates change

5. The questions we ask, dictate the answers we get

When presented with data such as "1 out of every 5 businesses fail", or "without funding, your business will fail", it is natural to see the challenges in entrepreneurship.

But if entrepreneurs (and many small business owners work alone) viewed the data as "4 out of every 5 business stay in business" and "with funding the opportunities for failure are smaller", the possibilities seem more abundant.

Why does language, particularly positive oriented language matter for entrepreneurs? Because the questions we ask do dictate the answer we get.

In the appreciative business approach, entrepreneurs are self-serving (saner, happier and more productive), when they focus on "what they want more of" (gee whiz, the old goal setting thing)!

Rather than emphasizing the problems of entrepreneurship, appreciative business encourages reflection on past business successes.

In working with a business coach that uses an appreciative approach, the emphasis is on strengths, skills, competencies and preferences vs weakness and gaps.

Through a four step process of reviewing business goals, the entrepreneur uses the "power of the positive questions" to DISCOVER (the 1st step), what is their best experience in the area that they might be facing as a new challenge. Using questions, they look at where they are, assess strengths, and focus on what has worked in the past.

The 2nd step (DREAM), looks at "what is the best of what could be." After figuring out where one is and what strengths one has, the opportunity exists to project and imagine the best of all possible outcomes. In the business environment, this is related to the vision statement process.

The 3rd step (DESIGN), builds on the 2nd step, because the incentive is there to create a road map to getting from past successes (no matter how small) to the future best possible situation (no matter how wild). A systematic process is used to identify the internal and external resources needed to "make the dream come true." This is an exciting step because the strategies, measures and action plans play an important role.

The 4th step (DELIVER) involves keeping the dream and design alive by adapting to change.

A very simple exercise that entrepreneurs can use is to replace the phrase "this is a problem" with a series of questions that focus on what outcome is most desirable and the who, what and where questions related to desired resources. By concentrating on the goal, and focusing your energy for action, you will more likely to achieve significant results and outcomes.

  • Franne McNeal is the Significant Business Results Coach for HR Energy,, a business coaching firm that helps entrepreneurs get more clients, revenues and profits. She has coached over 450 entrepreneurs and helped a startup win $20,000. 83% of her clients gained 2 new clients within 2 months of coaching. 64% of her clients increased their profits by 10% or more in 1 year. She is a regional and national business plan competition judge. She is a serial entrepreneur and the author and keynote speaker on the topics of entrepreneurship, leadership and technology. Franne provides a free business assessment and 30-minute coaching at