Three Key Questions Every Entrepreneur Needs to Answer in 2015

Posted: January 18, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Ecosystem, Innovation, Leadership, People, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

In the last few days, have you asked yourself, “Where did 2014 go?” Time is the most precious resource that any entrepreneur possesses. Although, time can seem to possess us instead of the other way around.

While the New Year prompts reflection about time, it also raises the specter of how we create value for our customers over time. The ongoing challenge for entrepreneurs is not only creating value at the outset of the business, but continuing to add value for customers today and into the future. The transition from one year to the next also brings into focus the nearness of the future. Tomorrow begins today.

 worked in the past or even today may or may not work in the future. Planning and creating the future takes time, creativity, and resourcefulness. Here are three key questions that every entrepreneur needs to ask and answer in 2015.

Question #1. What brought us here? Answer: The value proposition. While value creation is at the core of all new start-ups, it must be consummated with a value exchange. That is, a customer has to be willing to exchange value (usually money) for the product and/or service offering. This time of year, one of my favorite examples of creating this value proposition/exchange is The HoneyBaked Ham Company. Many of you may have enjoyed a Honey Baked Ham or Turkey as the center piece of your family dinner table.

The HoneyBaked Ham Company is an excellent example of multi-generational entrepreneurship and innovation. In 1938, Harry Hoenselaar, had an idea for a machine to spiral slice ham. In 1957, failing to find a buyer for his innovative slicing machine, he developed a unique curing and cooking/smoking process and opened his first retail store in Detroit, MI to sell his uniquely spiral sliced ham. HoneyBaked Ham would continue to grow as his daughter and son-in-law, JoAnn and George Kurz, opening a second store in Cleveland in 1966. Mr. Hoenselaar’s pre-baked and spiral sliced ham introduced a new way to think about the holiday family dinner.

Ask yourself, what the value proposition for my company? What is it about your product/service offering that attracts others to exchange value with you?

Question #2. What is going to keep us here? Answer: Continuous innovation. Although the spiral slicing was innovative, it was only the start. Second and third generation family members opening stores in Ohio, Michigan, and across the country had to continue a tradition of innovation that would establish HoneyBaked as the benchmark purveyor of hams. As the patent on the spiral slicer expired, so did its competitive advantage. Innovation in product and process (e.g., adding turkey as an entrée and establishing a proprietary honey glaze) were key to maintaining a competitive edge.

Ask yourself, what are you doing to innovate the product/service offering or practices for a changing customer base?

Question #3. What will take us into the future? Answer: See 1 and 2. Fast forward to the present and it is not the same business founded by Mr. Hoenselaar.  Craig Kurz, grandson of the founder, and the CEO of HoneyBaked Ham Co. of Ohio President of HBH Limited Partnership, has shared his experience and expertise with my entrepreneurship classes. As he likes to say, “With a heavy dose of respect, this is not my grandpa’s HoneyBaked Ham Company.”  In order to survive and thrive, Honey Baked Ham continues to innovate, build the brand, and develop new methods of production, distribution, and sale. In HoneyBaked’s case, strategic acquisitions, franchising, online and catalog offerings, developing a café model, adding core products (e.g., turkey), creating the proprietary “honey baked glaze” secret recipe, expanding the brand beyond the holidays, and more.

Ask yourself, while respecting the past, what needs to be done to engage current customers, attract new customers, and build a brand for the future?

As 2015 launches, take time to think about the past, present, and future of your venture. Never stop questioning how to build on the past, create value for your customers, and innovate for the future. Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

 

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