4Q Is The Time To Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions

Written by Mike Shapiro | | September 28, 2017

You’re ready to start the fourth quarter of the year. In the middle of all you’ve got on your plate to finish strong for 2017, it’s important to take a little time to ask yourself a few questions to get ready for next year.

It’s absolutely critical to get a good start for 2018 by focusing on three areas: 1. Your reason for being in business, 2. The products and services you offer, and 3. The customers you serve.

Get your team together and set aside a few hours to work through these questions and make some assignments to explore some new directions:

  1. What’s the central idea of your business?   What is the main value you bring to clients — the customer needs you satisfy — the real reason you’re in business?  What are you known for?
  2. List the products and services you currently offer.  What percentage of your revenue is accounted for by each product or service?
  3. Is it time to add a new product or service?  To discontinue some? Why or why not?  Are there some gaps in your product/service offerings that are costing you business? Are you wasting resources on some offerings that have outlived their usefulness?
  4. Who are your best customers?  What makes them your best? Where and how can you find more like them? Do your customers tend to belong to a particular trade or industry? Are there trade group websites you could subscribe to and post articles or meetings you could attend and be a panelist or speaker?
  5. What would your existing customers say about working with you?  Imagine they were sitting in the room with you.  Maybe even ask a few of them for input before the meeting.  What would they say you do really well?  What could be improved?

After your discussion, you might conclude everything lines up just right, and that you don’t need to add or discontinue any products or services, that all your customers like everything about working with you and you don’t need to change a thing.

But more than likely, out of the discussion will emerge a few ideas that could make your business better. Capture those ideas and come up with a plan of action.  Use our articles on these topics as a guide:

Describe each action in terms of what a stranger would see and hear that would indicate progress has been made. Don’t settle for mere “tasks” or “activities.”

Use a chart like this to assign and track progress on every item:

Observation Action Responsible Due Completed

Make sure the person responsible for each action item knows it’s his or her job to return to the next meeting ready to propose some concrete step — approach a company that makes a product complementary to what you’re already selling, ask counsel to draft a new service contract to turn transactions into customer relationships that generate repeat business, join a trade association.

At the next meeting, for every action item that’s proposed, the group should describe how taking that action would change the future state of your company.  Describe the future with as much specificity as possible, paying particular attention to the benefits that would accrue to the company, its employees and customers.  Then list obstacles or challenges that would have to be overcome to make it happen.  Next, brainstorm ways to address these challenges.

By this time, you will have come up with a very short list of action items that can move your company forward, and you can create project plans to implement them.


The free Business Boot Camp, with its 9-question, self-paced exercise, is a way to do a reality check on every aspect of your business.