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Ken Keller: Essential questions worth asking

Brain Food for Business Owners

Posted: August 31, 2010 5:01 p.m.
Updated: September 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The cartoon character Pogo was quoted, “Having lost sight of the objective, we redoubled our efforts.”

The person at the top is responsible for establishing the objectives for the company, for the team.

Owners tend to chase distractions disguised as opportunities. Owners need to keep managers and employees focused, moving forward towards set objectives.

This week’s column demonstrates 25 of the 55 questions worth taking the time to be clear about the answers. If the answer is not known before it is asked, it is acceptable because that opens the topic to a discussion that needs to take place. 

The first 10 questions should be answered by the owner.
1. What business are we in?
2. What is our mission statement?
3. Does every employee know what it is and what it means?
4. Does the organization live by it?
5. Do our customers know what it is and what it means?
6. What is our vision statement?
7. What is the one thing we do here?
8. As an organization, are we measuring the right things?
9. Who are the most important people in the organization?
10. To solve problems, do we look inside for solutions first?

These next 16 questions should be addressed to the managers of the organization. How they are answered will determine their level of strategic thinking and understanding of the business:
11. Who, exactly, is our customer today?
12. Who will be our customer 10 years from now?
13. What is it that we are known for?
14. What do our customers think of us?
15. What is taking place in our industry that may help us?
16. What is taking place in our industry that may hurt us?
17. What product or service makes us the most money?
18. How easy is it for our customers to do business with us?
19. Does everyone know how to greet and meet our customers?
20. Are we looked of as being innovative in our industry?
21. Do we have a feedback loop that offers our customers a means to connect with us?
22. What hours are we consistently available for customers to reach us?
23. What new technologies are being created that might impact us?
24. How will the future of our industry be different?
25. What trends that most threaten our company’s continued success?

Next week’s column will look at the last 30 questions business owners should take the time to answer.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom-line results. He can be reached at Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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