Thought of the Day: Questions vs. Answers

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[Scott] Cook has an unusual ability to ask the right questions (which my partner Vinod Khosla insists is more important than getting the right answers; in business, there are often several right answers),” writes VC John Doerr, of Intuit founder Scott Cook, in the introduction to a new book about the company, Inside Intuit.

It is Khosla’s point that we’re highlighting here: Concentrate on asking the right questions, not on finding the perfect answers. The answers to any given question will change, depending on the circumstances at hand. But the most important business questions are evergreen, and we try to address them here as often as we can

According to folks like Doerr, Khosla, founder Marc Andreessen, and the many other serial startup folks whose wisdom we pluck for you as often as possible, some of the most important questions include:

* What is your market?
* How big is your market?
* How does your idea address your market differently from everyone else?
* How much money do you need to address your market (in a way that is different from everyone else!)?
* Does it scale?
* Is there a potential buyer of your company, in case it doesn’t scale as much as you think it will?
* What assets will you have to sell in a worst-case scenario? got IP?
* How does each team member help you address your market better than everyone else?
* Is this person/project/strategy a cost center or a revenue source for my company?
* Does each member of my board offer me some piece of wisdom/perspective, business channel or relationship I cannot get on my own? (If they are just “supportive” this isn’t enough!)
* Does the marketplace know/understand what we’re doing? (This is your marketing question)
* Am I happy doing what I’m doing?
* Are my employees more happy than less?
* Do I want to be rich or king?

There are so many, but these are a good start. What do you think are the most important business questions?

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Lee Brillhart

These are all fine questions and I agree that the right question is generally (not always) more important than the right answer. Some others have spoken about this but another key question is whether the company has good product-market fit. This takes into account BOTH the benefits of the product AND the timing of the offer. This is a really important question that is often not addressed with much precision. And, really good product-market fit is big risk mitigator. It helps decent but young/green/learning teams stay in the game and helps remove a lot of flotsam from the sales and marketing process.

And, regarding cost/revenue name tags for team members: EVERYONE needs to be thinking as a “revenue” provider. I say this because I have had some really good experience as CEO working with/teaching administrative folks (traditional “cost” centers) that by doing their jobs more efficiently they are rin effect generating new sales (and in many cases a small cost savings can equate to a decent derived revenue figure). Psychologically, this seems to work better than focusing on “cost cutting”. Maybe just semantic bullshit and maybe I’m delusional but it sure has seemed to work; particulary when I got halfway smart about it and incented the cost savers exactly the same as I incented the sales team.

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