I was intrigued by an article in the April 2014 issue of Inc. magazine entitled “35 Great Questions”. Asking the right question, and then forcing yourself to consider the correct answer or answers, is absolutely critical to business survival if subsequent action takes place.
Even before I begin my work with business owners, asking the right questions is essential to uncovering the true needs of their business. It is called the interview and I focus on asking questions that are open-ended and include words such as who, what, where, why, when, and how. By asking these questions and listening, I am able to uncover the concerns and the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the business from the owner’s perspective. Priorities can then be set and action can begin.
My question to the business owner is, are you asking questions within your business on a continual basis? Are you generating the answers you need to improve your company and move it forward? And the most important point, are you asking the right questions? One simple way of ensuring you are asking the right questions is to measure financial results and key performance indicators consistently versus pre-determined goals. Variances in results will generate questions of key people to get to the root of the issue.
Below are five questions from the article that I urge you to ask within your own company.
- How can we become the company that would put us out of business?
- Who, on the executive team or the board, has spoken to a customer recently?
- What one word do we want to own in the minds of our customers, employees, and partners?
- What am I trying to prove to myself, and how might it be hijacking my life and business success?
- If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what would he do?
“The right questions don’t allow people to remain passive. They require reflection, followed by action (Buchanan, p.102).”
Are you asking the right questions?
*Buchanan, Leigh, “35 Great Questions”, Inc., April, 2014