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How to Get the Most Value from Your Business?
Harvest your strengths -- 14 "must ask" questions
by Lisa Nirell, Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth
Planning and visioning helps you harvest the most value from your business. It also helps with an essential quality of a technology or professional services leader:
knowing what to STOP doing.
Often we cannot identify what they are best in the world at doing, because we are too caught up in day-to-day firefighting. When we can't answer "what are our strengths?", our natural tendency is to go back to doing what we have always done (even if it's not what we do best!)
This happens with people who join our EnergizeMarketing Action Groups. They often have a dozen great marketing ideas:
build new seminar material, network at 3 different associations this week, write a BLOG,
invest in SEO or build a brochure (please don't!).
When this happens, I always invite my client to review their vision and values. How will those "good ideas" get them there? If they don't know, I know they have landed into the trap of the "good idea machine."
Here is one surefire way to fall out of the 'doing' trap and identify clues to what your company really does best ... and where to focus your business development efforts.
Whenever possible, hire an independent, objective interviewer or consultant to help you collect external feedback on what you do best. Remember, you're only human, and it's highly likely you'll fall prey to
the "false consensus" syndrome if you do it yourself. You may put pressure on others to agree with you (forcing groupthink to set in). Alternatively, you may experience selective recall -- only remembering the facts that reinforce the assumptions you prefer. Or, you may exhibit confirmation bias -- and seek out only opinions that match yours.
Identify 5-10 valued business partners and clients. They will fall into one of three categories:
clients with whom you have a long track record, clients you recently lost, and some who are almost ready to do business with you.
Feel free to include strategic allies and partners. Be sure all three categories are included and interviewed.
Ask your founder or CEO (if that isn't you) to personally call these contacts and request their candid input. Typically, 30 minutes over the phone will suffice. Give them the name of the interviewer, and ask them to schedule a call with the interviewer. Do not conduct online or fax surveys -- you will NOT get the quality of information you need.
Tell them it is very important feedback as you discover what you do really well. You value their input on how THEY think you can expand on that. Thank them profusely for their time.
Remind them this information is 100% confidential, and will not be attributed back to the source. Send them a personal handwritten note to thank them for their time.
Here are some questions your interviewer can use:
Tell us who you are and what you do. How did you first meet us?
Best experience: Looking at your entire experience with (your company name). Remember a time when things went especially well. A time when it seemed that someone went the extra mile to make something happen. Tell me about that experience.
- Who else was involved?
- What were they doing?
- What were you doing?
- What made it a success?
How does this compare to most of your experiences with (your company)?
What was this situation/problem costing you before you hired (your company)?
Business Results: What do you value the most that this company helps you do more effectively? (Listen for their values, goals, and dreams).
- Hard-dollar ROI or business results?
- Soft-dollar ROI? Value of the relationship to you personally?
What can you do now that you could not do before? Examples?
What seemed different about (your company/service) from others?
Core Value: What do you think are the top two to three core values of (your company)? In other words, if it did not exist, it would make the company look completely different than it currently is. Listen for core beliefs, ways of doing business that are pervasive and non-negotiable.
There are lots of companies out there selling the hottest, newest (service). Did you ever think the (XYZ service) could be another one of those solutions, or that solving your problem just required "more hard work?"
How is (your firm) different from other consultants?
What would make you recommend other companies hire this company? (Whatever they say ask, "Why is that important?" so we can really
follow their belief systems and values).
What advice would you give a firm that is considering this type of service?
Looking toward the future: As a professional in the (industry) business, what do you think is the future of the industry? What changes are we likely to see in the next
three to five years? How can a company like (your company) be positioned to meet those changes and challenges?
If you had three wishes for your relationship with (your company name), what would they be?
These powerful questions will give you solid clues to your strengths, values and highest return opportunities. Be open to what you hear -- and what's next for your company.
Lisa Nirell is the Chief Energy Officer of EnergizeGrowth.
She helps successful services leaders who struggle from working with too many unprofitable clients.
Through her research, 24 years of experience, strategy workshops, and highly interactive learning programs, Lisa helped clients secure $83M in new business within just two years.
Lisa has designed dozens of multimedia programs around the results of a one-year study of high-performing business owners, and from exclusive interviews with leaders such as Dr. Stephen Covey and Guy Kawasaki.
Nirell was the first global account manager in Siebel Systems' (now Oracle's) history to lead, design and implement a formal account strategy for Microsoft Corporation. Within two years, revenues grew from $2M to $11M.
She is an award-winning business columnist for several magazines including The San Diego Transcript, Vistage (formerly TEC International), AFSMI's SBusiness
Journal, Women in Technology, and Renaissance Executive Forums.
Certified Action Plan Marketing Coach
Today Lisa helps entrepreneurial companies implement her acclaimed EnergizeGrowthTM marketing and planning programs. She is also a licensed Action Plan Marketing consultant. Whether they are attending one of Lisa's interactive seminars, listening to her latest podcast, or reading her practical Field Guides, clients walk away with insights on potential roadblocks to growth.
Lisa can be contacted at