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What is Our Business? Enabling to Create the Future

I wrote a prior entry regarding an experience I had with a fully enabled employee. In that interaction, the employee made a quick decision to win my business by gaining my trust and doing something memorable. As a result, I choose to buy from this retailer whenever I have control over buying from their sector.

As I’m reading through Drucker, I’ve realized how important focus and communication is to a business’ existence. Not just the typical HR or “training-esque” messages that have to be conveyed from top to bottom and back, but the real meat and potatoes topics that facilitate innovation, allow enabled employees to exist and define the hedges of all decision making. Heavy Stuff.

A part I had not considered is the ideal of micro-decisions or those decisions throughout a day, made at all levels of the org, that add up to a macro-decision. Each employee acting on behalf of their own goals and what they perceive the company goal’s to be creates the company’s future and direction. Knowing that, how do we as facilitators mold the outcome we wish to see and ensure that it becomes a future reality?

From Drucker’s vantage, the most important question to answer is:

What is our Business? [It] is almost always a difficult question and the right answer is usually anything but obvious.
— Peter Drucker, Management, Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1974)

So how do I go about creating that answer? Like most good processes, we start with a list of questions to get all ideas out on the table. Here are the questions that I will start with to determine what business I am in.

Who is the customer?

Drucker theorizes that there is no one customer but rather at least two per business. To dig into this a better way, ask:

  • Who are all the parties needed to close a sale of my good or service?
  • Does my end-customer rely on an interior customer?
  • Are there other stakeholders that create my customer?

Where is the customer?

  • Where do they congregate?
  • Who influences their buying based on location/proximity?
    • Culture
    • History

What does the customer buy?

  • If it’s a good, why buy it? what other categories describe it?
  • If it’s a service, why not do it themselves? what other categories compete with it?
  • Does the customer know what and why they buy it?
  • What does the product say about the customer and his/her world?

Hardest thing you’ll ever do

The biggest point that Drucker seems to make about this exercise, is that the majority of people will zoom by as if the question is rhetorical or worse, redundant. The reason this is so difficult (and thus considered moot) is that the person or team deciding the scope of the business have to consider all outlier points of view and competitors. For example, Cadillac, a now well-known brand once struggled to find foothold as a division of GMC. Until the Marketing team discerned that Cadillac is not just a car but a status symbol, the company couldn’t begin to grow. Until competitors of Cadillac, like mink coats and gold rings, were identified, market segmentation and sales would only continue to slip.

In that same line of thinking, how can I help identify not just the root (and easy) competition, but the areas outside the known locus that are also contributing to the either growth or detriment of my business?

Closing Shop

What questions do you ask as you define your business? How are you logically and emotionally drawing a line in the sand to state definitively, “this is my business and this is who I am.” It’s a large step to take, but obviously an important one, and one that can define my path in this business for many decisions to come.

Image Credit: “Heaven and Hell” – Jim Harmer