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5 Questions Every Startup Should Answer

The biggest challenge for startups and early stage businesses is overcoming the mindset that you don’t need to consider branding right away.

The truth is you are building your brand from the moment it’s born, and from the moment you start asking people to support you. Many startups fail to reach their potential because they don’t take the time to fully understand and communicate the important meaning behind their brand. At Motto, we see many startups put all of their effort on developing the product, but wait too long to start thinking of it as a brand. They skip the most important component of building a brand — the strategic foundation and positioning.

Developing a brand is essentially two-fold: the strategy and the design. As a branding consultant having worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, I find that startups who skip the strategic development and jump to design are in a far worse position than those who go through the proper process. Branding is a process of self-discovery — it’s important to understand the reason you’re in business far beyond making money. If you’re going to put your heart and soul into your business, as all great entrepreneurs do, there has to a deeper purpose that lifts your sails and propels you forward.

When I guide entrepreneurs through the process of positioning their brands, I ask many tough questions to get to the heart of what their company stands for. Some of the questions are emotionally-driven, others are logically-driven, but the one commonality they share, is they always challenge our clients.

Here’s five questions every startup should answer that will lead you to the one meaningful idea at the center of your business:

1. What is your motto?

A motto is a statement of purpose and belief — it serves as your guiding principle and spirit of the cause you are advancing. I’ve asked so many entrepreneurs what their motto is and often the answer is “We don’t have one” or “I don’t know.” By defining what you believe in, and encapsulating those beliefs into a brand motto, it gives you, your team, and your customers an inspirational idea to rally around. Examples of great mottos include Facebook’s “Move fast and break things”, New York’s “Ever upward” and Harley Davidson’s “Live to Ride, Ride to Live.” Your motto should be the core of your brand strategy, decisions, behaviors and messages.

2. Why does your story matter?

Stories inspire us. They are the emotional glue that creates meaningful experiences between brands and their audience. Stories speak directly to the human condition, to our hardwired emotions and instincts. Ask yourself, what is our story? Is it meaningful? Why should anyone care?

3. What is your greatest vision?

If money, time, energy were no obstacle, what would you do? While most people think, “Well, time, money and energy are my obstacles” this type of thinking limits your ability to think big. By articulating your vision without constraints, you are able to picture what you truly desire and take the necessary steps to move your business towards that vision.

4. What is your plan for growth?

Every business follows a path and that path will undoubtedly include various turns, obstacles and re-routes; it’s the nature of business. Lewis Schiff, author of “Business Brilliant” gave me a great piece of advice — There is a difference between having a job you love and having a business model that you love and is scalable. In his words, “Do what you love, but always follow the money.” You must know where you’re going — what is your destination and how will you get there.

5. Why will you succeed?

I love this question because it forces entrepreneurs and organizations to take a hard look as to whether or not they have what it takes to succeed. Do you have the vision? Do you have the discipline it takes to overcome any obstacle? And, do you have authenticity, or proof that everything you do and say is a true expression of why you exist, and is clearly understood by your audience? That’s how you know you’ll succeed. You can’t have vision, but not discipline or authenticity — You must have all three.

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This post first appeared on the Chicago Tribune.

2 Comments

  • Jamie says:

    Excellent article. Helpful as we venture into the “who we are and why should anyone care” part of putting together our start up. Tough work.
    Thanks for the prompts.
    Jamie

    • Hi Jamie! Thank you and so glad you enjoyed the article. It is tough when you’re a startup to really hone in on those key questions. If you’d like any help or looking for more information, we’d be happy to help!