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Darren Wingfield

Darren Wingfield

Commercial Manager

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9 questions you should ask as a business owner

Posted on 21/07/23  |  3 Minutes
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2023. The Year of the Stocktake. And because the questions that a strange couple of years have prompted many business leaders to ask are evergreen, then whenever you’re reading this – it’s relevant.

Most times we’re so buried in the day-to-day managing of our business, that we’re not leading them as well as we could. So when we do take a pause, or have a pause thrust upon us, it’s a great opportunity to ask questions.

We’ve grouped a few dozen questions into nine key business areas. Some small. Some big. All important. See how you go.

1. Organisational Objectives
What do you and yours actually want from this venture? And when do they want it? You, your family and fellow shareholders.

2. Customer Avatars
Who will buy from you? Do you understand them demographically? And by mindset? How do they live their lives and how do they actually behave? As people and as consumers. How are you going to get them to notice you, buy into you and buy from you? (And then buy from you again). How are you going to get under their skin? So that they become fans and tell others.

3. The Competitive Environment
Do you understand how readily your target customers can get the same benefits that you are offering from elsewhere? Have you identified both direct and indirect competition? And do you understand their trajectory? Have you developed strategies to corral competitor audiences to defect to you? To become your customers instead of their customers? Have you
developed a circle of brands with whom you should be associated, so that their audience can be encouraged – by you – to become your audience and customers as well?

4. Brand Strategy
What do you stand for? What is the change you want to make? What is your distinct, ownable, memorable, compelling and motivating reason for being? What is your purpose? And who ‘out there’ cares about all of that? (If it isn’t your customer avatar – you really are in trouble). And how do you propose to embed all of this into the fabric of your organisation (even if it’s
only you) and into the minds of your segmented marketplace? How are you going to find and engage with those that believe what you believe? Do you understand how you are different and better? And if you do, is this point of difference something you can own? And is it communicated and indeed strengthened via every move you make?

5. Marketing Strategy (and tactics therein)
What will you say? To whom? When? Why? And how? What combination and schedule of marketing tactics is best? And how do you know and review this? How will you even be noticed? And how persuasive are you thereafter? What different strategies, and associated tactical approaches do you have in place for your different kinds of customer?

6. A Messaging Framework
What will your brand actually say? What are the actual words and phrases? What will you say to focus on customer acquisition? What will you say to consolidate sales and build loyalty, repeat business and reputation? So you will be remembered.

7. Sales Strategy
What are your platforms/routes/channels to market? How does your selling machine actually work? What does it look like?
What do you (and others) do when? Who else is involved? How do you ensure consistency and coherence? How can you ensure that intermediaries can sell as well as you can? What are your sales targets? How are they broken down by market segment, size of customer and more? Do you understand, and have you accounted for, the differences between customers
(who buys it) and consumers (who uses it)?

8. Organisation
How does your business machine work and fit together? Who do you need and who do you have? To make all of this work? 

9. Money
Sales targets, profit targets and all margins. Are they targeted? Are your target reserve levels high enough to get you through tricky times? And for how long? Are the key ratios correct? Does your pricing policy allow you to flourish in the channels you have chosen? Or are you restricted? How are you in the context of industry norms? Is cash flow OK? Are you planning for
organic growth or step change?

The Year of the Stocktake

Few organisations address and answer all of these questions.

But any good organisation addresses most of them. Maybe within the team that is most close to delivering results in each area. Here at Harlands we explore much further than just the numbers of course. Because the interdependency of these areas of focus is clear. And as the subjects are indeed evergreen – The Year of The Stocktake can be any (and every) year that you choose.

Good luck.