“GIVE a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”

We’re all familiar with that saying, but it is fundamentally true: whether you’re talking about food shortages in the Third World or educating your own children, “teach a man to fish” always applies.

Farmers, fishermen, children or entrepreneurs, people learn best when they discover things for themselves. So my job is to help entrepreneurs ask themselves the right questions.

What are the questions I want entrepreneurs to ask themselves?

Obviously some vary with the entrepreneur and the nature of their business, but looking back over the last seven years of TAB York certain key questions crop up over and over again.

What do I really want from my business?

“I want more time and more money, Ed.” I need to ask some direct questions. How much more time? What will you do it with? How much more money? Why? What difference will it make? No one can motivate themselves with a mental image of an abstract ‘more time and more money.’ It’s much easier imagining your house in Portugal, Friday on the golf course or handing your daughter the keys to her first car.

Can I please everyone?

Human nature dictates that we like to say “yes” – whether it’s to a new client or a new commitment outside the office. But all the successful people I know say “no” on a regular basis. If you want to avoid what Stephen Covey famously termed being “in the thick of thin things”, if you truly want more time, then you’ll need to ask yourself this question – and sooner rather than later.

Am I in my comfort zone?

Being safe in your comfort zone isn’t what an entrepreneur is built for. Staying in your comfort zone limits your growth; it gives you a false sense of security. Stay too long in your comfort zone and there’s a real danger that – when you finally pop your head above the parapet – you won’t recognise the new world.

Am I prepared for criticism?

We’re now living in an age where everyone has an opinion – and it’s easier than it’s ever been to voice that opinion. You can’t please all the people all the time and today those that aren’t pleased will reach for their keyboards. So be it. Criticism – and its attendant handmaiden, jealousy – is an integral part of a successful entrepreneur’s life. Focus on your long-term goals and let it wash over you.

Do I know everything I need to know?

If you think you know everything you need to know, you don’t. In fact, with the world changing so quickly it’s safe to safe that the more you think you have to learn the better.

Five very simple questions: but they apply to virtually every entrepreneur I’ve ever worked with. And successful entrepreneurs don’t just ask those questions once: they keep asking them. So some time before Christmas take ten minutes and a piece of paper and ask yourself these five questions. It’ll be some of the best preparation you do for 2017.