#42: Get Your Story Straight
Every client engagement I have starts in the same place - The Four Foundational Questions. These four questions tell me almost everything I need to know about the story of your business, and inform all the strategic work we do together. You see, before you can start creating strategy, you first need to get your story straight. Being able to answer these questions will help you focus, choose priorities, and grow. (They even work for people, not just businesses.)
Who are you? Your company name. (I like to start easy.) The bigger question I'm driving at here, sometimes, is whether your company name tells people, clearly, what you do. When naming their company, sometimes people feel they have to be super-cutesy, or super-original, or that a single word unrelated to their product will do. It won't. Unless you are Apple or Nike and have billions to spend on brand marketing, make the name of your company something people will immediately, easily understand. Some day I'll write a blog about the incomprehensibly frustrating process I went through trying to name THIS company, only to settle on Starling Consulting because, well, it's me and I consult. So there you go.
What do you do? This one is deceptively hard. Most people understand what they do, but they are INCAPABLE of explaining it concisely and well to someone outside their business. These answers tend to start off rambling and incoherent, and we work together until we've created a single-sentence statement that encapsulates the most important facets of the business and ensures that someone listening can understand, no matter whether they understand your product, service or industry at all.
What makes you special? Some people call these differentiators, but I don't love that word, so we're just gonna talk about what makes a company (or person) special. What do you have that no one else does? What can you do better than anyone else? Why should someone choose to work with you? Why would someone pay you to do what you do?
What do you value? I save this question for last because it is the hardest, and the most important. You have to declare your values if you have any hope of creating a vibrant company culture, attracting the right clients and employees, and keeping your soul as you scale.
That's it. The Four Foundational Questions. Can you answer them? If you asked all your employees, would they give the same answers as you? If you asked your customers, would they say those things, too? If not, you need to spend some time getting your story straight. (I can help.)