When it comes to entrepreneurship, business acumen is important, but not as important as foresight, which is essentially just a mix of self-awareness and social-awareness.
To create a successful business, you have to be able to answer questions people don’t know they are asking and solve problems they do not yet know they have. You also have to differentiate fads from trends, and be able to stay ahead of the curve by anticipating the evolution of a field and then acting on it.
In many ways, to be adept at business has as much to do with managing the logistics as it is managing your own mind. Here are 8 deep questions that will help you reinvent or build your most successful venture yet.
If you had to start a company to compete with your own, what would you create to put yourself out of business?
The best way to stay ahead of the competition is to pretend you are the competition. Panos Panay, the current SVP of Global Strategy and Innovation at Berklee College of Music and former founder of Sonicbids, told Inc. that one way to do this is to pretend as though you were tasked with developing a company (or product, or brand) to compete with your own. How would you beat yourself? That’s what you should implement now.
What’s a problem most people don’t realize they have?
We think of successful entrepreneurs as solution-focused. However, they first must be problem-focused. The key to a successful business is to identify a problem and then solve it, but to do this, you must recognize it before anyone else does.
Would you honestly pay for your service if someone else offered it?
The greatest gauge of the viability of your own service is your self-belief in it. Not only will this impact the effort you put it into it, but honestly asking yourself whether or not you’d realistically pay for your own service, book, product and so on helps you identify whether or not someone else really would, either.
Where are your eyes going?
When eyes were on the T.V., ads were played on cable. When eyes went to smart phones, ads were in the news feeds. When eyes were on movies, actors promoted products. When eyes were on the internet, “influencers” promoted them. Where attention goes, so does business.
Are you identifying fads or trends?
Fads are anomalies. Trends are patterns. The difference is important, because fads are short-term, while trends are long-term. Trends, much like history, repeat themselves. They are predictable because they start in the margins and then become mainstream. Fads, on the other hand, start as mainstream and then reduce themselves to the margins.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Beyond business acumen, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is what you want your own legacy to be. This will not only fuel your ambition, it will help you create something with more social contentiousness. It will allow you to build something you
What’s a realistically ambitious goal for you to have?
Ambitiousness is interesting because it at once requires you to think bigger than your current circumstances while still tethering yourself to reality enough that it is feasible. When it comes to business, big ideas with no foundation are big failures waiting to happen. Instead, start with something realistically ambitious, and then grow from there. Most super successful companies did so, too.
Do you have any role models who created something similar?
Yes, the objective here is to create something completely unique. Yet you still need a viable business model, and if you can’t find anyone who has done anything like you are doing, even a little bit, there’s probably a reason. For example, streaming services are an entirely unique business, and yet they still follow the “subscription” model.
There’s a lot to learn, and even more to be gained, from looking at what’s historically been successful, and then marrying it to modern ideas. It’s about learning from the past while looking to the future, and creating something that’s in the middle of those right now.