Whenever I start consulting for a new company–especially one where 2 or more people share the decision-making–I hand the bosses a piece of paper with 5 questions on it. I’m usually met with a confused look–until I explain why I’m asking these questions, and how the answers are relevant to the task ahead.
The 5 Cliché Questions
- What is your strong point?
- What is your weak point?
- What makes you stand out from the crowd?
- What do you bring to the market?
- Where do you see your company in 5 years?
You probably have that same confused look on your face right now. “Why would he ask these stupid questions that pop up in every job interview?” The answer, in part, is because they are in every inane job interview. The companies keep asking those questions of prospective employees, but never have to answer them. That little bit of turnabout is only a bit of gravy on the real meat of the matter, however.
Do You Have the Answers?
Despite the fact that they’re cliché, these questions actually serve a good purpose: They force company owners to look at the most basic aspects of their business and have an answer. You’d be surprised at the number of “decision makers” who don’t have simple answers to these simple questions.
Do You Have the SAME Answers?
Equally as common is the case of conflicting answers. These questions are a test–a “pop quiz”–and just like pop quizzes in school, I require that everyone do their own work–no copying, no sharing. It’s amazing how often decision makers–even partners–return different answers. I’m not referring to different approaches to the same situation. I’m talking about answers which are in opposition, or even direct conflict, with each other. If you can’t agree on what you bring to the market, how can you bring it? If you can’t agree on your weakness, how can you overcome it?
The actual answers to the questions aren’t of real consequence. I don’t much care what the answers are–only that they can be answered. I use these answers as signposts to help me guide clients to where they want and need to be.
The decision makers, however, should keep asking these questions. The answers will, of course, change over time. What the answers are, or will be in the future, doesn’t matter. The importance is that you can answer them.
Blaze is the founder of Redleaf Consulting. He started as a dishwasher at the age of 15, and worked his way up to Director of Marketing for a Sino-German joint venture in Jiangsu, China. He has over 25 years of experience in education, communication, and marketing.