Answering Your Own Questions
As a person covering the major segments of the printing industry, part of my job is to ask questions. This is one part of what I do that a really enjoy, because it allows me to get below the surface, with the intention of gaining deeper knowledge. In doing this, I’ve discovered that quite a few business owners and managers struggle to define and share what their business is and the value it can bring.
Defining Your Business
One question I enjoy asking up front is, “Tell me briefly about your company.” In some cases, the answer is well thought-out. In others, the answer may be a bit too general, something like, “We print wide-format graphics and signs.” In other cases, the answer has the aspirational vagueness of a mission statement: “We’re a company committed to meeting customer needs now and forever.” In one case – though weakly – we have a company defining what it does; in the other, the company is – albeit vaguely – defining its value. In neither case is a company providing us both.
So, how would you answer the question, and how would you adjust your answer based on who you’re speaking with? A potential customer? A strategic partner? A vendor seeking helping you source equipment or materials specific to the needs of your company? Think about it.
Beyond creating a viable, active definition for your business, you should be able to anticipate common questions customers will have about your business, so you may more quickly develop a valuable partnership. Honestly, it’s kind of like dating: determining compatibility usually requires (at least on some level) a determination of shared goals, values, and potential outcomes. Within a business relationship, just taking customer orders does not go as deep – or instill as much commitment – as helping a customer build its brand.
Again, consider the questions. What should you be asking, both broadly and specifically, to help you better understand how to serve current, and event future, customer needs? Further, what must your customers know about your company and its values that will foster a strong connection. Know this now.
Building Your Culture
If you are a company owner or manger, the self-exploration that’s being proposed here should not exist only in your head. Questions are asked because something in unknown. When what is known is shared – with, for instance, your sales team – then the broader company benefits. Further, shared knowledge, processed and made actionable, helps ensure your team is on the same page – aligned toward shared goals, using shared strategies, benefiting from snared knowledge. Instilling what your company is and does, as well as its value, into your culture is essential.
A key question is whether members of your team see the company in a shared way. Are they doing their best amid an unclear understanding of the company’s identity and expected outcomes? Is your corporate compass calibrated so the whole team is going the same direction? Define, align, and move forward.