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Mind your own business

3 questions to ask yourself when offered a new opportunity

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By Michele Woodward for Betty Confidential

Imagine you're a business owner. Say you have a restaurant and you do a fair business, but you could always use more customers and revenue. One day a guy walks in and asks if you cater. You think a moment and say to yourself, "Well, food's food. I guess I can cater," and, voila! You've got a new line of business -- you're a caterer.

Then imagine another person comes into the restaurant and says, "Charlie, you're a capable person, and I like you a lot. Can I pay you to wallpaper my bathroom?"

Now, wait a second. Catering is to restaurant as wallpapering is to... what?

This is exactly the moment many small-business owners get off track -- especially when money's short. A client requests something that's not particularly in your sweet spot, but you do it, thinking, "Gotta get me some money." The end result: You spend less time on your business, it suffers and voila! You have less money.

Saying no is hard. It's particularly hard to say no to earning money when you really need the cash. But think about it this way: Saying no frees your time to earn money building your business and doing more of what you like.

How do you know if what you're being offered is a new lucrative business opportunity or just a waste of time? Ask yourself these three questions:

1.) What do I want for my business? As a restaurateur, I want to offer good, well-prepared meals to people at fair prices. (BTW, this is the quick-and-easy question anyone can ask in order to come up with a business mission statement. Voila! You just saved yourself thousands in consulting fees.)

2.) Will this opportunity build my business, or not? Catering allows the restaurateur to continue offering good, well-prepared meals to people at fair prices. It's only the delivery system that changes. However, wallpapering doesn't allow the fulfillment of his mission statement in any way, shape, or form.

3.) How do I feel about this opportunity? If you feel conflicted or uneasy or downright icky about it, use The Force, Luke -- and listen to your feelings. If you feel uneasy before it even starts, imagine how you'll feel when six months go by and you're not cooking any meals -- just endlessly wallpapering bathrooms.

I know, I know -- now you're saying to me, "I don't own my own business. This isn't relevant to me." Allow me to differ.

Most of us face moments when we're offered something that we could do but aren't sure we should do. These three questions can be used whenever you need to evaluate doing something new. In the context of your life, they can be repositioned as follows:

What do I want for my life?

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