Business owners and leaders tend to be a creative group. They can generate ideas for new products or services at a furious pace, and drive their staff crazy trying to determine what actually makes sense to pursue. Staff frequently resorts to passive-aggressively nodding their heads, and then waiting a few days for poor ideas to be forgotten. There is a better way to quickly screen business ideas, and not miss out on opportunities with promise.
Create a list of questions that should be answered before further investigating an opportunity. A yes answer to all the questions gives the green light to take next steps. No’s and maybe’s mean that either the opportunity should be dismissed, or that there is more work to be done before moving forward. Try these questions for starters – you may have others that are pertinent to your business or organization.
1. Is the opportunity consistent with your organization’s Vision? The vision defines your organization’s direction for the next few years. If an opportunity is inconsistent with the vision, then top leadership should decide whether to modify the vision. Appropriately, that is a high bar.
2. Is the opportunity consistent with your Mission Statement? A mission statement defines the core reason for an organization’s existence. Opportunities that diverge from the mission lead to a lack of focus.
3. Is the opportunity consistent with your Values? Your values define how you act as an organization and as people within that organization. Going against organizational values confuses employees, slows down decision-making, and corrupts your culture.
4. Is the opportunity significant in terms of revenues and/or mission impact? Ideally, the opportunity should increase both profitability and mission impact.
5. Do you have a passionate champion for the opportunity? A champion at the leadership level is critical in the competition for financial and human resources.
6. Do your capabilities compare favorably with the competition? This can be a complicated question to answer without deeper research, but a gut check answer based on existing industry knowledge can screen out many opportunities.
Use these questions for an initial determination on whether a business opportunity merits further exploration. Answering them will save you valuable time and money by quickly eliminating weak opportunities. The questions can also be used as a template for a team discussion, or for a presentation to the leadership team. If your boss uses the questions to screen his/her own ideas, staff may not need to consider so many bad opportunities in the first place!