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The three most important questions you will ever ask

I know, I know. “Will you marry me?” and “Whose buying the next round?” are important questions. But besides these, there are three really important questions I want to discuss in today’s blog. They are of course framework questions:

  • Where are we now?

  • Where are we going?

  • How are we going to get there?

These questions are not one-offs; they should be asked constantly. And if they are, I can promise you will run a successful enterprise. Let’s look at them in more detail.

Where are we now?

This first question sets the scene. It is sometimes called a “situation analysis” in which you look at your company, your customers and your competitors (3Cs). In answering the question it is worthwhile looking at strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats. In other words, you should carry out a SWOT and PEST analysis. It could also be worth a look at important aspects of your company using the balanced scorecard. With these analyses complete, you are in a position to decide where you can go.

Where are we going?

This question may be better expressed as “where do we want to go?”. Deciding on goals for your company is almost certainly going to require the collection of facts and intelligence. For example, if you are bent on growth, you will need to have a good picture of the market size and future trends of your target audience.

It is then necessary to think about what is achievable. The market size will help but you also need to know whether your product/service fits the needs of the market and for this there are various frameworks such as unique selling proposition (USP), value proposition canvas, core competences, Kotler’s 5 product levels (to name but a few useful frameworks).

In addition to making sure that your product/service meets the needs of customers, you must understand the competitive position. Again, there are a number of frameworks that will help in this regard. Collecting competitive intelligence will be necessary. Porter’s diamond will also give valuable insights. Armed with this intelligence, the ADL matrix will assist in advising how you can compete.

And then you must decide whether your best opportunities lie close to your existing markets or further afield. For this I recommend Ansoff’s matrix.

How do we get there?

As we move into the plan of how we achieve our goals we have to think both strategically and tactically. Porter’s generic strategies give a high level view as to whether you should be focusing on your brand, low-cost, or a niche.

You will also need to check out whether your product is right for your target audience and it is expedient to examine the needs of different segments. Various tools such as conjoint and SIMALTO will ensure your price and product are in equilibrium with the needs of the market. Kano and value proposition canvas will make sure that your offer is distinctive, desirable and defensible.

And finally, there needs to be an action plan of who does what by when. For this you could use SMART objectives and a Gantt chart.

So there we have it – the three most important questions for achieving success in an enterprise. They offer structure that gives direction. They tie in with other frameworks. They provide an important context to a problem and help us see more clearly.

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