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Thinking Ahead: Good Questions Lead to Better Businesses
Business Improvement: The best way to improve your company is to ask the right questions and stop to consider the answers. Review this checklist with your top managers to analyze areas that need to be addressed.

By Chaille M. Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2014

                One of my favorite leaders of all time is Jesus. Yeah, it’s hard to top a man who millions worship around the world. But it can be easy to forget that Jesus was a real guy surrounded by real life issues and personalities. Leading a group of misfits including fishermen, a tax collector, a political revolutionary and other simple men must have been a tough leadership assignment. Jesus loved to ask questions and would frequently reply to a question with a question.

                I have been thinking a lot lately about the kind of questions that I should be asking to improve my company. And you should be doing the same thing too. My interest in this topic was recently peaked by an article published in Inc. magazine. The April issue included an article on 35 great questions that companies should be asking right now.

                This issue of the Pallet Enterprise gives the reader a lot to think about. The cover story details  how Baker Enterprises is responding to the lumber shortage by revamping its mill and deploying a logging crew. The idea is that companies with resources should secure their supply chains. And in some instances, this may involve hiring your own logging crew, buying timber tracks or installing new sawmill capabilities. This is certainly not an easy or cheap fix. But it is one way to address the uncertainty that lies ahead.

                A group of industry leaders discuss the tough market dynamics in our first in a series of articles based on roundtables involving major voices from around the country. Questions are a critical part of this article series.

                New columnist, Jon Goldman, explores the various components to coming up with the right price for our goods and services. This is certainly a hot topic in an environment where lumber prices are skyrocketing. See the article on page 54.

                Finally, the announcement by White & Company that it is making available for lease its innovative Best Load™ software used to design the entire unit load from a systematic perspective is big news. It could be a game changer in how companies look at unit load management. This is especially true when you consider the fact that big savings can be achieved by optimizing the packaging on the pallet even if you have to spend more on the pallet to do that in many instances. Read the article on page 38.

                So, here is my list of 15 key questions that every company should consider. What do you think? What questions should you be asking? Come up with your own list and share these with your managers and team members. You may be surprised what you learn if you will only ask.


Key Questions to Consider Right Now

1.) What should we stop doing because it isn’t helping us achieve our goals or make any money?

2.) How are customers using our products differently today than they did five years ago?

3.) Do we have the right people doing our core functions or are some people misallocated in the wrong place?

4.) What customers should we fire right now?

5.) If I had to leave my company for a year and the only communication I could have with my staff is a single paragraph, what would I write?

6.) How have I taken steps to secure our raw material supply and what can we be doing differently to leverage the current market dynamic?

7.) When customers think of my company, what is the top thing that comes to their minds? What do I want that to be in the future?

8.) What is it like to work for me?

9.) If you could set any realistic price for your product or service, what would it be? How can you change your current price discussion to reflect those realities?

10.) What personnel challenges do you see the industry facing over the next 2-5 years? How can I solve that dilemma for my company?

11.) If my business had a major fire, accident or data breach would we be ready to respond and survive the incident? Am I really sure about my answer?

12.) What is the biggest production bottleneck in your operation right now? How can you improve this situation?

13.) Do you set aside specific time to cast vision to your employees and other company leaders? Why not if you don’t?

14.) What are you doing to ensure that you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

15.) If you could ask for any dream machine to improve your operation what would it be? (This is a piece of machinery that doesn’t exist right now but you would like for somebody to invent. Go ahead, dream big here. Be somewhat realistic though.)

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