Believe it or not, managing a business is, in many ways, the same as visiting Disney World or a city you’ve never been to before. It’s thrilling to think of all the possibilities that lie ahead, but before you can embark on your journey, it’s important to understand where you are, what your current conditions are and what surrounds you.
Failing to understand where you stand as you begin your journey would, at best, make it difficult to reach your destination. At worst, you could waste your time running around in circles - never achieving your goals.
The first step toward building your business is asking the right questions to thoroughly define your current business environment and brand situation. The answers you gather will ultimately help you decide how to build, manage and market your brand. The great news is that you don’t need a consultant. You can simply answer the questions yourself, interview people or conduct a team exercise to answer the questons together.
Here is a set of simple yet powerful questions to ask that will help you assess your business, both internally and externally.
Conduct an internal assessment.
In this step, you gather the points of view from people inside of the organization, such as employees or business partners - people who are close enough to the brand to care about its success. Gathering this information consists of posing two simple questions:
- What is working for your business; and therefore, what should you continue doing?
- What is not working for your business, and what should you stop doing?
Probing for unbiased viewpoints not only generates a more accurate picture of the brand, but it also helps the respondents to think more objectively, providing more open and honest responses.
Answers to the first question will highlight areas of the business that people are proud to be a part of. You might learn about recent successes, particularly strong contributions from certain individuals or activities with consistent and proven results.
Related: The 21st Century SWOT Analysis
The second question will highlight fissures in your brand - problems that could exponentially spiral out of control if not attended to. To dig deeper on problem areas, this question can be preceded with more direct questions. For example: “If you were the leader of the brand, what would you focus on?
These questions will likely get the most passionate answers. Asking someone what he or she would do if they were in charge will typically reveal their No. 1 frustration - the one thing they feel should be immediately addressed.
Asking these questions across a broad spectrum of stakeholders is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the inner workings of your business.
Once you have a consolidated list of the perceptions of the business, you can rank the issues based on their potential impact on the business. Once the internal assessment is complete, the next step is to answer some questions about your business in relation to the market place. This will help you gain the big picture of your business.
Related: Use SWOT To Kick-Start Your Planning
Conduct a market assessment.
In the second step, you will assess the key environmental forces that affect your brand and its overall health and ability to do business.
You can do this by conducting a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.
Step one is to define your brand’s competitive set - the products or services that could easily replace what your brand is offering. With your list of competitors you can begin to populate the following four quadrants by answering how well your brand stacks up against the competition as well as the key market dynamics across these vectors.
- Strengths: What are the brand elements most helpful in driving growth?
- Weaknesses: What are the brand elements that are setbacks to growth?
- Opportunities: What market conditions can accelerate growth?
- Threats: What market conditions can significantly limit growth?
Related: How to Research Your Business Idea
With the quadrants populated, you can derive key insights to select a growth strategy that uses your strengths to tap into opportunities and consider any weaknesses and threats that might jeopardize your growth. This analysis will increase your chances of success in the market.
Completing these two steps will give you the best assessment of your business. After, you'll know what your brand needs to begin doing, what it needs to stop doing and what practices to continue. The clarity gained from this exercise will serve as a solid foundation on which to build your business.