A group of recent graduates asked my advice on creating a new and exciting startup company. The initial discussion included a flurry of ideas and excitement about the company’s potential. Each of the three partners brought complimentary talents, strengths and value to the enterprise. The question for me was: Where do we begin?
I turned to Peter Drucker, the management expert for guidance.
The initial question for the group focused on Drucker’s fundamental question –The purpose of the organization is to create….what? On this the group offered several replies - profit came up first, with money a close second, thengrowth. According to Drucker, the appropriate reply is “a customer”. Without the focus on customers the organization would fail. (I wrote a separate posting on this very topic, here.)
Now that we had a focus, we began with the questions:
- What is our mission? In other terms, what is the purpose of the organization – what are we trying to do? This is where the leadership gives meaning to the organization so others have a personal connection to the work.
- Who is our customer? Said differently, who are you trying to serve with your product or service? Although it sounds easy, there are primary customers and secondary ones. The primary ones may be the end users, and the secondary ones are those who have an interest in the overall outcome of the product or service. By answering this question, you can also determine who your customer is not.
- What does the customer value? Or, what attributes of your product are customers looking for that help them? Again, the product value may be different for the primary customer and secondary customer. One of the best ways to determine this is to ask the customers (not all of them of course, but enough to give you a sense of what is important).
- What are our results? Are you meeting the needs of the customers? Are you providing the value they desire? Again, getting feedback through asking is a good way to determine your success.
- What is our plan? What are the next steps to achieve your goals, or to adjust your current approach considering the answers to the first four questions? What actions must be taken to develop new goals; what products should be abandoned; what risks should be assessed, etc.
Needless to say, we didn’t get through all of the questions in great depth. The partners left with plenty to think about. Each of The Five Questions incorporates supporting questions and other considerations making them easier to understand and more comprehensive. In addition, the questions apply to every type of organization – for profit and non-profit alike. Drucker’s intent was to provide a framework for organizational leaders to create an effective organization.
In the case of this startup company, the excitement is just beginning...
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Tim Parker is a Business Consultant focusing on Executives and Leadership. He is President of Parker Resource Management, LLC in Raleigh, NC.
"What do you want to be remembered for?" - Peter Drucker