How well do you know your business?
Published: July 01, 2020

Mastermind is a successful TV quiz show that’s been on the BBC since 1972. Its creator, Bill Wright, drew inspiration from being interrogated by the Gestapo during World War Two, creating the famous black chair, moody lighting, and challenging questions.

There’ve been some high scores, but also some pretty poor ones. The current record for the lowest score in the specialist round category is jointly held by Simon Curtis and Steve Ferry, who both scored just one point when answering questions on their chosen subjects, “The Life and Films of Jim Carey,” and “The Thirty Years War” respectively. How is it possible, you ask, to get such a low score on a subject you should know intimately?

Well, let’s put you in the Mastermind chair, and ask you questions on your chosen subject – “My business.” This should be a topic you score pretty highly on. After all, you started the company, devised the strategy, recruited the talent, built the sales funnel, know the numbers inside out. What could possibly go wrong?

Your time starts now.

What is the weakest point of your business?

You could choose from many options – sales, increased competition, talent, supply chain, cashflow. But the one answer most often ignored is the one staring you in the mirror each morning – you. Many businesses fail not because they don’t have a good product or a sound strategy, but because of an over-reliance on one individual, the founder. You had the talent to build your business, but you need something else – the right talent around you to make it grow, and the intuition to know when to let go. Being the go-to-person for everything is not just the path to burn out, it can be a huge obstacle to sustained growth.

What do last quarter numbers tell you?

They may say that sales are down. Which perhaps means you need to find more customers. Or you had trouble with your suppliers. But there’s often a more fundamental issue behind the numbers. Is your business model working? Looking at each quarter in isolation can hide longer-term problems. Is your strategy responsible for this dip? Do you have the right strategy to sustainably grow your business? Numbers can be a guide. But they don’t always give you the full picture. You need to look at your whole business operation, including yourself, and not just the data.

What is your vision?

Most businesses begin with a vision, a mission statement. But do you still know what your vision is? Has it changed over the years? Is it something that your team and your customers can remember and get behind? Is it demonstrable? Is it still relevant? Having a clear vision is one of the most important assets a business can have. It costs nothing to create, and yet it is of immense value.

Many business owners focus on customer feedback, word of mouth or sales as the way to measure customer satisfaction. But ask yourself a different question – have your customers bought into your vision? All companies will go through sales peaks and troughs, but the businesses that succeed are those that have strong customer loyalty borne out of an allegiance to your vision – what you stand for and what makes you stand out.

Is your business strategy fit for purpose?

All business owners will have a strategy of some description. But the question to ask is – does your strategy serve a purpose in growing your company? Our research tells us that while most businesses have a strategy, the majority don’t implement it on a regular basis, and many don’t have long-term strategies with regard to areas such as finance and talent. The strongest, most robust businesses have a strategy for success that they implement and continue to work on.

How flexible are you?

If you’re a middle-aged person reading this, you may say – not much. But what about your approach to business? How nimble are you? Do you have a mindset that welcomes change, or one that, like a stick embedded in mud, prefers to stay put? It’s vital to be able to move quickly when problems arise, as many businesses are finding out with the current pandemic. Fresh approaches are needed to retain customers and find new ones: working from home requires a new mindset; communicating with your team, suppliers and customers is more important than ever before. Flexibility is key.

Having answered these questions, you may feel you’ve scored top marks, and your business is in rude health, fit to take on whatever challenges arise. Alternatively, you may feel that you don’t truly know your business as well as you’d hoped and that there’s room for improvement. But whatever your score, what is important is that you understand every area of your business, and particularly those where there may be weaknesses. This requires more than just looking at a spreadsheet, it needs real soul-searching. It involves getting to the very core of what your business stands for, and how well-equipped you are for what lies ahead.

To dig a little deeper into your business we recommend you take the Certainty Scorecard Test. It’s free, totally confidential and only takes four minutes, but it will give you information and insights into how well your company is set up to deal with the challenges ahead.

To take the Certainty Scorecard test here.