The Four Golden Questions to a Successful Business

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The light bulb over your head is the brightest it’s ever been. You have this rush of motivation coursing through your veins. Finally you feel that passion again, the same passion when you first started. The vision of success is so clear, you know this is the idea, this is the idea that’s going to pull you and your entire family out of debt. This is the idea that’s going to change lives for the better.

Your mind is racing so fast. You want crack open the text editor and then you realize that you should sketch it out first. An hour later your pencil is so dull and you realize all this work you just did has nothing to do with the original idea. You’ve added all these new features and other ideas with the intention to make that app better and more robust. What happened? I thought this was the one, I thought this was your golden ticket? Where did you go wrong?

Let’s step back take a deep breath and analyze the situation. So you have a great idea? Yes….Ok, so we know what you want to build, we now need to answer the four golden questions before any wireframing or functionality is scoped out. Here are the four golden questions that must be answered when creating an online business.

What Specifically Is The Goal?

This is the most important question by far. However the answer to this question might have multiple parts. If your end goal for your product is too large then you need to focus on the minimal product you can offer, right now. With that being said, you need to separate these two goals or visions.

Here is an example of someone who wants to start a digital magazine that covers all the major tech news from around the world. Right now this one person can only cover so much at once because they are just one person. However, in the future they’ll want to hire more professionals to handle the work load to accomplish their main goal.

Here is an example of their mission statements:

  • Main Goal: Report on the latest, up to date information pertaining to everything tech.
  • Initial Goal: Report on the latest, up to date information pertaining to web design.

You can see that the end goal is much larger however right now this individual will spread themselves too thin trying to accomplish that end goal by themselves. This is why it’s better to focus and strive for the minimum viable product. In this case it’s just focusing on reporting to the web design community.

This first step allows us to be clear, confident and more importantly pin point focused.

What Do You Need?

Only when question number one is answered in a precise manor are we able to move onto question number two; “What do you need”? This list should be very vague and category based. Since our goal is to report on Web Design, lets break that down into categories. This will give us a good idea on what topics we need to cover.

  • Web Standards, UX, UI, Identity, Typography, Illustration, etc…

We simply take the main focus which is Web Design and break it up. Notice we’re not getting super in depth(ie. line-height). Keep it simple and straight to the point.

How Do I Make Money?

Again questions one and two need to be answered before we can answer question three. From the example we know the individual is reporting on Web Design and we have broken the content up into specific categories. Now, how are we going to make money off this? There isn’t a single correct answer for this question. This will take time and research to find the best approach for you and your product.

Here are some suggestions for getting a great approach.

  • Research your competitors and target market.
  • Send out surveys to see how much your market will be happy paying.
  • Offer something for free.
  • Look at advertising to fund everything.

After you feel you have considered all your options its time to pick a direction. For the example of the digital magazine, the approach might look like this.

  • Offer the first issue for free
  • Charge for a yearly subscription or by month ( ie. $4.99m / $49.99yr )
  • Charge for advertisement in the digital magazine

How Should We Serve It Up?

Finally, we get to the functionality structure of the application. Just like all the other questions, one through three need to be answered before we can answer this question, “How should we serve it up”?. Using the example, here is a way to structure the design:

  • Main site is a blog that has synopsis articles which then push to the magazine articles
  • The digital magazine is purchased on the site and is only interactive on the site
  • You are able to download the magazine in pdf format only
  • Sign up with a social network and get the first article free through the initial newsletter link

From here we can start listing specific content lists and wireframing.

In Conclusion

By answering the Four Golden Questions we are able to have a clear vision of the product and execute it in an orderly fashion. There’s never a need to back track. Simply create your two statements and execute the simpler one. Put it into action now, and get it up quick. There is always time to rework, but you first need to be specific and minimal with your approach. If not, you’ll end up with a lot of wasted time, money and personal drive.

Without answers you’ll feel like your slowly driving in a murky mist of “I don’t know, we’ll get there”. So throw on those high beams and fog lights by answering the Four Golden Questions. It’s time to race to your products success.

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Mat Helme

Designer, Illustrator, Front End Web Developer, Author & Teacher @treehouse. Follow me on Twitter or visit my personal site at MatHelme.com.

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