All business owners should ALWAYS be asking the following questions – how many of them do you ask yourself and how often?
What is our purpose for existing? A lot of businesses had a purpose when they started, but over time their product, service and market changed. Is this still the right mix for us and if not how are we going to change things?
Who is our target customer? We think we know the answer but actually do we? Has our customer profile actually changed and, by luck, are we now serving a different customer group?
Why does anyone need our products or services? Some buyers buy goods and services because they like rather than need it. This is a dangerous position which always arises when the link between finding out what the customer wants is divorced from what we are providing. It would be very rare for a company to fold if it continually spoke to their customers and found out what they wanted.
Can we make a profit? It is very nice doing what we do but is it actually capable of making profits that are sustainable? Best not be a busy fool making and selling goods and services that earn nothing.
What’s the competition doing? Do we actually know who they are let alone understand their products or services? How much have we innovated what we are doing to keep ahead of the others?
How easy is it to cut costs and generate some advantage over the competition? Can I spot some simple cost reductions to give me an advantage? Why not go radical and ask your customers how they might change the product? If nothing else it keeps you close to them and would ideally identify some practical changes you might make including reducing costs in either the product or the way it is delivered.
How good is my leadership? As companies mature, they require managers with different skill sets. Not everyone has the same skill set and challenging times require a different management style. How well am I delegating and where are the critical lines of authority and responsibility?
Do I have the right employees? There are employees who know how to bring new products and services to life, while others know how to nurture an existing line. Sales staff sell but should never be marketers.
How will we continue to sell? What plans are we devising to increase sales? Where are the emerging sales coming from?
Are the staff on-board with the way we are moving? Staff involvement is critical – if you want to improve systems ask the people who work them day in, day out, to find out how. Never assume just because you are a manager that you know the answers. Get their input now, tomorrow, next week, next month, all the time. Your staff are the ones who please your customers, not you!