The 7 Questions for Growing Your Business

How you can improve employee commitment and engagement demonstrate respect.

When you are looking to grow your business there are three steps involved: firstly, determining what your business will look at a given point in the future; secondly, what the business currently looks like; and finally, how you are going to bridge the gap between the two.

I always begin by looking at what I want the business to look like in the future. Why? The future does not yet exist, so I have the opportunity to create it from scratch. The future is not just an extrapolation of today – it is new and exciting! Your future can include current offerings, adapted offering, new offerings or offerings that you no longer make available.  Similarly with your customers you may be serving existing, adjacent or new customers, or you may no longer serve some of your existing customer groups. In short, starting with tomorrow frees you from the constraints of thinking of today.

At the heart of growing your business are two key outcomes you are looking for:

  • Growth – you are looking to grow and develop your business
  • Profit – you want your business to be more profitable in the future to make it sustainable

Driving these two outcomes are seven areas, the seven Ps, which surround them. This is shown below.

Th e 7Ps  Driving Growth and Profit

  1. PurposeWhat is your “Why”? – what is the reason for being for your organization that inspires and engages you and others?
  2. PatronsWho are you customers? – what customer segments do you serve and with which offerings?
  3. ProblemsWhat issues do they have? – what are the problems they need help with, or the jobs they are looking to get done?
  4. ProductsWhat are our solutions to their problems? – how do you help your customers with their problems in a way that the customers sees as valuable, which differentiates you from your competition and which will make you money?
  5. ProcessHow do we deliver the solution? – this includes everything that is involved in creating, supporting and delivering the solution. This includes everything within your business, and with the other businesses you work with or through in creating and delivering the solution.
  6. PeopleWho do we need to run the process? – what people do you need and in which positions, and what skills, capabilities and attitudes do they need to have to do the job efficiently and effectively?
  7. PromotionHow do we promote ourselves to our Patrons? – how do you reach out to your different customer groups and how do they want to engage with you, and what channels are most effective for doing this?
  8. Growth & Profit – this are the outcomes you achieve from getting the above seven factors right, and being able to leverage them effectively.

Use these questions as outlined in the table below to help you think this through in three steps:

  1. WHERE do you want to be? (future)
  2. Where are you NOW? (present)
  3. HOW will you bridge the gaps? (strategy)

So don’t wait – start this now. Share your thoughts and ideas with your colleagues and see how you can create your own future and bring it back to today!

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Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

To Create Your Future, Start in the Present

If you want to create your future, then work in the present 

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at If you found this article of use or interest please don't hesitate to share it with others. Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How often have your colleagues, your family, or your friends, amazed you with their near-perfect photographic recall of the times when you got things wrong or made a mistake. Not only do they recall all the details but, if you can remember the incident at all, what you remember is totally different.   I am sure it has happened to you, it happens to us all. Now have you ever done this to someone else, of course, you have!

The problem when we do this, or when others do it, is that we are not living in the present – we are living in the past. As LP Hartley, author of “The Go-Between”, said ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’  Living in the past we cannot change what has happened, and living in the past stops us from living in the present where we can make choices in creating our future and taking control of our own life. The past holds you back; the present allows you to create your future and your opportunities. A Buddhist parable illustrates the challenge – and value – of letting go of the past.

Two monks were strolling by a stream on their way home to the monastery. They were startled by the sound of a young woman in a bridal gown, sitting by the stream, crying softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed across the water. She needed to cross to get to her wedding, but she was fearful that doing so might ruin her beautiful handmade gown.

In this particular sect, monks were prohibited from touching women. But one monk was filled with compassion for the bride. Ignoring the sanction, he hoisted the woman on his shoulders and carried her across the stream–assisting her journey and saving her gown. She smiled and bowed with gratitude as he noisily splashed his way back across the stream to rejoin his companion.

The second monk was livid. “How could you do that?” he scolded. “You know we are forbidden even to touch a woman, much less pick one up and carry her around!”

The offending monk listened in silence to a stern lecture that lasted all the way back to the monastery. His mind wandered as he felt the warm sunshine and listened to the singing birds. After returning to the monastery, he fell asleep for a few hours. He was jostled and awakened in the middle of the night by his fellow monk. “How could you carry that woman?” his agitated friend cried out. “Someone else could have helped her across the stream. You were a bad monk!”

“What woman?” the tired monk inquired groggily.

“Don’t you even remember? That woman you carried across the stream,” his colleague snapped.

“Oh, her,” laughed the sleepy monk. “I only carried her across the stream. You carried her all the way back to the monastery.”

The learning point is simple: Leave it at the stream.

If you want to drive then look ahead, don’t look in the rear-view mirror. All the rear-view mirror can show you is where you have been, it can’t show you where you need to go. And if you try to drive by just looking in the rear-view mirror you will soon find yourself coming off the road! A small change, but one that will free you and help you!

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The Freedom and Choice Dilemma

Choosing your own way, and choosing to be free of interference from others in doing so 

What does freedom mean to you?  You will come up with many answers covering many concepts, situations or contexts – but they all fall into one of two categories: freedom from and freedom to.

  •  Freedom to” – this is the freedom to attain certain outcomes and realize our full potential (an ability)
  • “Freedom from” – the absence of others (or things) forcibly interfering with the pursuit of our goals

One must be free in both senses to obtain full benefit from making a choice. You need to have the ability to choose an option and not be prevented from choosing it by any external force. If you go too far to either freedom from or freedom to then your opportunities are limited. So people tend to favor a balance between the two extremes.

Some people, however, tend to lean more one way than another:

  • Freedom From “I am a slave to no man”

Here you see yourselves and others as having high personal control. You tend to favor this as it provides more opportunities to attain personal goals, and because it rewards your effort. Here you have an internal locus of control; you believe you control your life.

This is also known as negative freedom as it is freedom from external interference that prevents you from doing what you want when you want to do it. These restrictions are placed on you by other people. The more negative freedom you have, the fewer the obstacles that exist between you and doing whatever it is you desire.

  • Freedom To “I am my own master”

You believe that your success is primarily determined by external factors, not you. You believe that no amount of effort can guarantee your success. You have an external locus of control.

This is also known as positive freedom, the freedom to control and direct your own life. Positive freedom allows you to consciously make your own choices, your own purpose, and to shape your life; you act instead of being acted upon.

Negative and Positive Freedom Illustrated

Imagine a man driving a car. He comes to a crossroads. There is no traffic light, no police roadblock, and no other cars; the driver is free to turn whichever way he wants to, and he decides to turn left. This is negative freedom; the driver is free from restrictions which force him to go one way or the other. 

But what if the driver turned left because he needed to stop at a convenience store to get cigarettes, and he stopped even though it would mean missing an important appointment? It was his addiction that was really steering the car. This shows a lack of positive freedom; the driver lacked the freedom to do what he really wanted – to get to the appointment on time.

The freedom you have and enjoy varies and is both positive and negative at different times. These types of freedom are not polar opposites, if you are one you are not other, but rather express a blend of freedom you may create or experience for yourself as shown in the continuum.

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When Should You Procrastinate?

When procrastinating can be a good thing to do….. 

What do you think of when I say the word “procrastination” to you?  Often we look at procrastination we see it as something that we do but should not – it is about creating delay, avoiding work, or putting off those things that we don’t want to do so we can do that which we like or want to do. Often when doing so we feel guilty.

But procrastination is not black or white, but shades of gray. Let me explain.

I see three types of procrastination which are dependent on what you are doing instead of what you could be working, these are:

  1. nothing,
  2. something less important, or
  3. something more important.

Out of the above three types, I would suggest that the last – doing something more important – is good procrastination.  Why is this? Procrastination is not just about what you do or not do, it is not even just about the priorities (or lack of) that you have, rather it is about the opportunity cost of how you spend your time. Opportunity cost is about the benefits you could have received but have foregone by choosing one alternative over another. In terms of procrastination, when you choose to spend your time doing on one alternative then you forego the benefits that you could have realized from choosing another.  This is important, as time is a scarce resource – once you have used it you can never get it back. No matter how rich, how powerful, or how smart you are we only have 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour and 6o seconds in a minute. Time spent can never be regained!

If you are a good procrastinator you focus on the important stuff and put off the “small stuff” – those things which do not really matter and which do not progress you in what you are looking to achieve. By doing this the benefits you have not realized from doing the small stuff are outweighed by the benefits you have realized from doing the important stuff – this is why it is good procrastination, it is the best use of your time. If you focus on the small stuff then you are doing better than if you are doing nothing, but not as well as if you were working on the important stuff; and if you do nothing, then you incur higher opportunity costs as you have failed to use that time to realize any possible benefits. So good procrastination is about avoiding the smaller stuff to focus on the important work.

So how do you know if you are spending your time most effectively and that you are exercising good procrastination and not a form of bad procrastination? Ask yourself this one question:

“What’s the best thing you could be working on, and why aren’t you?

The kicker here is the second part of the question! You need, to be honest with yourself and to identify the barriers that are making it hard for you to do so. I always use the Five Whys tool where you take the initial statement and then ask “Why?” up to five times – this helps you to identify what the root of the problem is that needs to be dealt with, rather than dealing with just the symptom.  For example:

“I don’t know where to start on this project”


“Because I am not sure of what the outcomes are I am looking for”


“Because I have not determined what is in the scope of the project”


There are several ways I could approach this project.


“Because my boss wants a variety of things but I don’t know what is important to her”

Ah-hah! – the underlying problem, or the root of the problem, is that you don’t know what the boss wants to achieve from the project – not that you don’t know where to start. So the action for you is to go and talk to your boss – this will help you get started and stop procrastinating!

The process of good procrastination is simple, but it is not easy – this is why so many people slip into habits of bad procrastination instead. Use this approach to help you and see the benefits come to you over time.  So when are you going to start doing this?

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Price & Value

Why price and value must co-exist…

The most important thing in pricing is value. This is not the value as you determine it, or but rather the value as perceived by the customer.  The price a customer is willing to pay, and therefore the price you can achieve, is always a reflection of the perceived value of the product or service in the customer’s eyes.

There is a relationship between price and value which the Romans understood; in Latin the word “pretium” means both price and value. Literally speaking, price and value are one and the same. This is a good guideline for businesses to follow when they make their price decisions in that you need to:

  • Create value: how your product or service is designed, made and performs all drive the value that customers perceive. Innovation also plays an important role as it focuses on creating, unlocking or delivering customer value that was not previously available to them before.
  • Communicate value: This is how you influence your customers’ perception. It includes how you describe the product, your value proposition, and your brand. Value communication also covers packaging, product performance, and shelf or online placement.
  • Retain value: Your customers’ expectations as to how the value will last post-purchase will have a significant influence on a customer’s willingness to pay, for example, luxury goods, consumer durables and cars.

There are a couple of illustrative quotes regarding price and value. Firstly, the French have a saying, “le prix s’oublie, la qualité reste.” Loosely translated, that means that the quality you bought endures long after you have forgotten the price.

“That is the worst and yet easiest error. Better be cheated in the price than in the quality of goods.” (Baltasar Gracian, 1601-1658)

The point here is that price is quickly forgotten, while quality, good or bad, stays with us. So when you create a product or service is when you begin your planning on how and what to price it as. Make sure you create, communicate and retain value which is perceived by customer as valuable to encourage their willingness to pay.

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Better Customers – How to Find Gold Mines & Avoid Land Mines

How to ask customers for feedback to build better relationships and drive sales

Too often businesses adopt pessimistic mindsets when using customer surveys, with the surveys being focused on problems and what has gone wrong – your “land mines”. This is so the business can identify what has gone wrong, focus on what can be improved (or avoided), and allow customers to vent. However, this does not help businesses to build a long-term, positive relationship with customers as it focuses on the negative.

Rather, think about using your customer surveys as opportunities to not only listen to your customers, but to subtly influence your customers’ perceptions.  So how can you do this?

Instead of asking people what has gone wrong, ask them what has gone right – your “gold mines”. For example, asking a compliment question such as “What went well during your visit?” or “What did you enjoy about the purchase experience?” creates tangible benefits for the business. Research has shown that when businesses do this several things happen:

  1. Customers who are surveyed using a compliment question are more likely to spend more in the following year than customers who are surveyed without a compliment question.
  2. Satisfaction measures are increased.
  3. Being asked to give positive feedback boosted spending even among customers who reported having had poor experiences.

Why is this?

There are two key reasons. Firstly, memory is malleable, so asking customers to recount positive experiences may make the memories of those experiences more salient and accessible in the future, enhancing customers’ overall perceptions.  Secondly, people tend to compliment what they like and to like what they compliment – so if a customer answers positively they will also be likely to act in a way that reflects this so that they are self-consistent in how they think and act.

This is not to say that you should use this to try to manipulate people. You can only affect how they perceive things in the short-run, but you cannot change the reality. However, this approach helps you to just focus on your “land mines” (your weaknesses), but to focus on your “gold mines” (your strengths). What customer questions will you use and how will you use them with your customers?

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2 Insights for Building a Stronger Business

Building a stronger business through network effects & collaboration 

Network effects are becoming increasingly important for businesses; especially those involved in technology, as by understanding them you can not only build better products but also a better business.

A network effect occurs when a product or service becomes more valuable to its users as more people use it. For example, when people first started using telephones they had little value as there were very few other people who you could call. As the number of people who had telephones increased, then so did the number of people with whom you could communicate – this making telephones more valuable to those who had them.  More recent examples of this include communication and social media applications such as Skype, Facebook, Linked-In etcetera.

Telephones, of course, don’t perform better as you add more of them to a network. But people and institutions do. And that’s where the concept of network effects gets more interesting – when you apply it to how people might perform better.

Example: World of Warcraft

The online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW) provides an intriguing example. Performance in the game is measured by experience points, which are awarded to players as they successfully address progressively more difficult challenges. It takes roughly 150 hours of accumulated game play to earn the first 2 million experience points but players on average are able to earn another 8 million experience points in the next 150 hours of accumulated game play. Even though within the game, experience points become more difficult to acquire as you advance, World of Warcraft players are improving their performance four times faster as they continue to play the game.

How? Most improve their performance by leveraging a broad set of discussion forums, wikis, databases, and instructional videos that exist outside the game. Here the players share experiences, tell stories, celebrate (and analyze) prodigious in-game achievements, and explore innovative approaches to addressing the challenges at hand. This “knowledge economy” is impressively wide and deep.

The more players participate and interact with WoW’s knowledge economy, the more valuable its resources become, and the faster players increase their rate of performance improvement. Said more generally, the more participants – and interactions between those participants – you add to a carefully designed and nurtured environment, the more the rate of performance improvement goes up. This is the “collaboration curve.”

Collaboration Curve

Collaboration curves hold the potential to mobilize larger and more diverse groups of participants to innovate and create new value – they could be users of your offerings, or people from different groups who can contribute (for example employees, suppliers, customers, competitors, regulators etcetera). In so doing this can help you improve your level of performance. This is already seen in the development of open source software, product development through crowd-sourcing, new product launches through crowd-funding etcetera.

So look at how you can create and leverage network effects for your product offerings, and in doing so create collaborative effects by connecting and leveraging different people, groups and stakeholders around your offerings. In doing this you generate greater levels of experience, better networks, greater engagement, and develop more knowledge – all of which can be used to create value and realize the profit.

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