I wrote this article two years ago but this topic remains a part of many conversations still today. It is so important to look at your business critically and ask these four fundamental questions. When you’re so wrapped up in the business of the business you risk failing to pause long enough to challenge your fundamental strategic assumptions. Not doing that on a routine basis is a huge risk to the business.

I work with emerging food and beverage brands. When I first sit down with a founder or CEO, I ask them four key questions. On the surface, these questions appear simple, basic, even a bit general. In my experience, however, the clarity and succinctness in which they are answered are predictive of both the likelihood and the speed with which their desired outcomes are achieved.

The questions should be asked and answered in sequential order. They are as follows:

1. What is your vision for your brand?

2. What is keeping you from achieving that vision?

3. What would it mean to solve it?

4. What are you doing about it?

Let’s look at each of them in some detail.

What is your vision for your brand?

It is hard to effectively run a race if you don’t have absolute clarity about what the finish line looks like. Being able to answer this question is foundational to building a good and effective strategy. Are you a local brand wanting to become a strong regional one, or a regional brand aspiring to become a household name? Is your vision to create a lifestyle business, or is to drive top line and have a successful exit? As you begin to contemplate the answer, you’ll be sure to find many layers to the question. Being able to answer this first question with assuredness is vital to growth.

What is keeping you from achieving that vision?

Now that you have clearly defined your vision, what’s stopping you from making it a reality? Is it funding, expertise, or an aversion to risk? Could it be a lack of resources or focus? Maybe it’s that you have the wrong people in your organization, or the right people just in the wrong seats. It could even be that your product or packaging isn’t as good as it needs to be. It might be the way in which you are communicating the value of your product to the consumer. Whatever it is, figure it out.

What would it mean to solve it?

You’ve identified the obstacles, now what would it mean to the growth of your brand and company if they were removed from your path? It is critical that this is answered in quantifiable terms. Doing so will help you determine and justify what resources you can put towards the solution. If the obstacles were removed, what would that mean to your revenue growth or EBITDA? How would it impact market share and brand awareness?

What are you doing about it?

By answering the prior question in quantifiable terms, you now have the information you need to make a sound investment. Dependent on the obstacles identified, that investment could include hard costs such as capital improvements, product refinements, additional human resources, or the use of outside experts. It could also just require a change of focus and prioritization. The one answer that you can’t accept is to do nothing. Doing nothing means that you are merely a victim and that is not a good growth strategy.

Again, these questions when first read may appear basic. But, as I hope you now understand, your ability to answer them clearly is so important to the future of your brand and organization.

So, I will issue you a challenge. Within the next week, take the time to ask and answer these questions. If you want to share your answers, I would love to hear from you. I believe you will find real benefit from the exercise.