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I'm a consultant and advisor  for social enterprises - using business to change the world.

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Good Questions For Your Business

Good Questions For Your Business

Sharpening the axe

Sometimes when you’re feeling stuck, you don’t need someone to give you a solution.
What you actually need is a better question – a way of reframing your situation that presents a new, clever way of solving your problem.

Josiah Strong first said:
“Time spent in sharpening the axe may well be spared from swinging it”
The same principle applies here.
By improving the quality of our questions, we’ll end up wasting less time on low-value activities, spot hidden opportunities and prioritise the things that really matter.

It’s vital that a business continually questions its core assumptions and practices.
A good question at the right time can revolutionise an organisation.
Here are some of my favourites:

What are we actually looking to achieve?
You’d be surprised at how often this gets lost in translation.
The founders might have started down a path for one reason or another, and then train their team in how to do the same.
Those team members train more and more staff, and eventually you have a workforce with ingrained habits.
This is also the basis of the game Chinese Whispers.

Businesses have to constantly avoid getting distracted by vanity metrics like turnover, followers, trophies, growth or headcount.
These are all means to an end, but they’re never the end itself.
There’s always a bigger reason, be it a social mission, influencing culture or building an income stream.

Choosing what not to do

What are we willing to say “No” to, in order to get what we really want?
They say tradeoffs are the essence of strategy.
It’s easy to declare an ambitious goal – words are free.

It becomes expensive is when you decide what you’ll forego, be it fame, profit, time, sleep or the chance to pursue other noble causes.
You need to be explicit here, being honest about the value (and cost) of your targets.

Why do people choose us over our competitors?
When teams brainstorm, they come up with 10-20 reasons why customers will choose them over every other brand.

Unfortunately, real people don’t work like that.
They make a decision for one reason (usually a selfish one), and then use the other noble reasons as supporting points.
By uncovering your customer’s true motive, you can double down on what matters and get rid of the distracting points that don’t sway people’s behaviour.

Customers around shop

How do people feel when they shop with us?
Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

This principle is often overlooked in business, where we instead focus on tangible metrics like sales and clicks.
If you treat people with genuine care and hospitality, they’ll notice.
If you treat people with contempt, they’ll notice too.

I’ve never seen a business get it right by accident.
These warm feelings are carefully created by passionate individuals, or teams who take the time to design a positive, rewarding experience.

Even if your product is technically superior or cheaper, people won’t stand for being treated poorly.
Especially not when they have options.

Menu price list

Can we raise prices?
Very rarely will customers offer to pay more than what’s on the price tag.
For this reason, increases need to be driven by the company themselves, albeit after they’ve gone through the earlier questions.

By offering a great experience and charging a reasonable price, a business can ensure its longevity through safe margins.
The customers who grumble probably aren’t your core audience, and the ones who truly “get” what you’re on about won’t mind too much, so long as you keep delighting them.

What can we do now that will make everything easier in the future?
Compounding is a powerful force; Einstein famously described compound interest as
“The eighth wonder of the world”

This can be harnessed by clever businesses – small but important improvements to your business that snowball over time.

By getting it right early on, the rest of your work becomes easier.

Examples might include improving your homepage, establishing a positive culture, making your signup procedure as painless as possible, or creating a clever referral system that sees happy customers incentivised to bring in their friends.
These are small investments that scale into big results.


Try them for yourself.
Which questions could change the way you think about your organisation?

Good Questions For Your Side Project

Good Questions For Your Side Project

The Formidable Individual

The Formidable Individual