I recently polled a group of over 100 CEOs and Business Leaders, asking them the questions that keep them up at night. Here are the top seven with very brief commentary. I hope these questions will be an impetus for further growth in your business.
1. Have we enough cash to survive a major economic or business broadside?
cash is important for the larger business, it is critical for the smaller company or start-up. The most common issue I see particularly with younger and fast-growing companies is lack of cash. Err on the high side if seeking funding and ensure you have a tight handle on cash reserves and needs. Nothing can sink a company faster than insufficient cash.
2. Which employee(s) require replacement that we have not addressed?
The blatant misfits are easy to deal with. The tough cases are the employees who no longer fit because they lack new skills required or are inconsistent performers. In larger companies mediocre employees can also hide in plain sight. A quick exercise will help weed them out. List your direct reports. Give them a rating of 1 to 10 with 10 being superb. Sixes and below require action. No company can afford to provide harbour to mediocre employees but especially so the smaller the company.
3. Do we deeply understand our target customer and the one core benefit we provide to them?
are two concepts woven into this question. A target customer and a single, compelling benefit. Too often companies allow themselves to broaden the definition (if they define at all) of their target customers as well as the benefits provided. With breadth comes lack of specificity resulting in whitewash for your action and communication. Broaden at your peril. You will stand for everything and nothing in the end. The tighter you can focus, the more relevant , compelling and defensible your position will be.
4. Is each of our employees crystal clear on where our company is going and their role in helping to get there.
the need for direction, the biggest leadership shortfall is the belief that employees understand. The more effort expended to educate, converse and gain input, the higher the quality of the engagement and action.
5. Which customers do we need to fire?
Each of us has the Pareto rule when it comes to demon customers. It’s likely that 20% of them are causing 80% of our pain. Conduct a regular review to see them and then take action once you’ve identified them.
6. What is the single greatest impediment to our success and what are we doing to deal with it?
It’s a commonly known secret among consultants that usually the answer to a strategic issue or problem is already known within the organization they serve. It’s often the elephant in the room. Ask yourself what issue your organization is avoiding and you may just strike pay dirt.
7. What aren’t we seeing that could maim or kill us?
Most organizations (and individuals for that matter) see the world through their own lens. Real sight comes from the outside-in not the reverse. As Robert Burns declared, “O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.” Practice this and you or your organization will never be blind-sided by market or competition.