Every solid business starts with questions. These questions seek to determine who you are, what you do and why you are of value to the customers you intend to serve.

Ultimately, these strategic questions then underpin your business plan and shape the way you build the business and alter it throughout its life.

So, let’s look at five strategic questions every start-up company needs to start asking themselves.

Who are we?

This question sounds like a simple one, but it actually comprises a whole lot of smaller questions rolled into one.

‘Who are we?’ looks at the problem the business solves, the market size it intends to cater to, the experience of the people in the business looking to solve that problem, their philosophy and a whole lot more.

Basically, this single question underpins the reason for the business, while also determining its vision and mission, why staff would want to join that team and also why investors would seek to back a business in the start-up phase.

What problem do we solve?

Every business solves a problem on behalf of the consumer. And it’s critical a start-up clearly defines, in a succinct way, how they intend to solve whatever this problem is.  All while providing a clear point of difference.

‘What problem do we solve?’ is basically the reason for the business – it defines your market, your ideal customer, how you intend to assist this customer, and also encompasses the businesses’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, along with existing competitors in the marketplace.

Why now?

This strategic question is important, but one that is often overlooked. The reality is, business success is often reliant on timing.

If the timing is right there will be immediate demand for the product or service. Your intended customer will know what you are trying to provide and recognise there is a need for it.

Asking yourself ‘why now?’ also goes hand in hand with ‘what problem do we solve?’. It defines your place in the market, establishes a need for your product and services, and offers a way to hone the unique selling proposition and stand out from the crowd.  

Why are we different?

In a sea of same, same, how are you different? Is it customer service? Perceived value? Convenience? Price point?

This question is key to defining your market position and unique selling proposition.

It is the basis of your marketing strategy and helps define both the ideal customer you serve and how you intend to successfully cater to their needs.

What do we believe in?

‘What do we believe in?’ is a question that speaks to the core values of a brand.

It’s important to define as it becomes the basis of your vision and mission and the reasons customers, staff and investors will feel an alignment with your business.

Answering this question also sets the tone of your business marketing and your customer service principles, while offering another potential point of difference that makes your business memorable to prospective customers.

‘What do we believe in?’ will also set the parameters of what is expected of the business and its staff, along with what will not be tolerated.

It is the ethos that will draw your ideal customer in and engender loyalty.

How the answers to these questions are used

Many of these questions seem existential and in some ways they are. But they also provide the starting point for essential business start-up tools including your pitch-deck and business plan.

When you undertake the questioning process, those answers will often be broken down into the separate areas of your greater business plan, including your marketing strategy, your operating plan, your vision, mission and more.

Importantly, these are all powerful questions that should not just be asked in the start-up phase.

They should be revisited time and again throughout the life of a business whenever a strategic decision needs to be made about the future direction of that enterprise.

Answering them provides clarity about who the business is, what they do, how they are different from their competitors and what they hope to achieve.