Even as a kid in high school, I made different choices than most. Rather than taking traditional English classes of reading literature and writing book reports, which for me was excruciating at the time, I chose instead a journalism class for two years. Through that process, I learned an invaluable way of looking at just about all of life through the 6 questions that must be answered in any news story – Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. This has become a fundamental process that I use to evaluate all kinds of situations and decisions.

As you look at a circumstance inside your business, or particularly when considering any type of decision, take your subject through this simple exercise, preferably on paper (or a document) and you will always be rewarded with an enhanced level of clarity. It can look like this;

What – Find new retailers by doing a Trade Show.

Why – My products are being purchased by people who attend this show already. Therefore, the show likely attracts others that would be buyers for my products as well.

Who – 40% of the attendees at this show are the people who are buyers of my product and carry the category in their store.

When – April for 3 days with setup and breakdown on the front and back

Where – Dallas.

How – Setup a booth and talk to passersby in the aisle.

On the business side, there are two additional variables that I always add. They are: AT WHAT COST and FOR WHAT EXPECTED RESULT.

In the news business, at what cost is a personal evaluation that is never covered except in the op-ed pages. But, in your business, at what cost is actually paid for out of your finances or your time, therefore it is very personal. At what cost is actually a big part of the What question. The real answer to what is Do a trade show that will cost in total $5k (booth space, fixturing, on site needs, hotel, travel, etc.), 5 consecutive days of my time out of town and 30 hours of personal preparations.

Beyond at what cost, the other variable extends the Why question; for what expected result. In the example it might be to write orders with 20 new retailers. It might be to meet 50 new buyers. It might be to return with $50k in sales. It might be many things.

The comparison of the two added corollaries at what cost and for what expected result is the essence of a cost-benefit analysis. If you don’t like the outcome of the cost vs. the benefit, then revisit the why or the how and do what might be necessary to change the outcome. (BTW, if all you plan to do is show up at a trade show, that’s grossly short of making a trade show Cost Effective. Next week you’ll see why.)

Every situation that I discuss with our clients starts with a firm awareness of “why”. If you don’t have why, don’t bother with the rest. Too many  entrepreneurs jump at How without actually working through this exercise. Before you know it, all their capital is gone. Many others simply do the same things over and over, year in and year out waiting for the “big one” to come along, never really getting to the Why or the revisit of the What.

Embracing this process can provide you and your team with a framework for lots of conversations. It’s simple and easy to understand. And it does not require any special training, only your insight, which is what a business needs to continually pursue.