Are You Having a Business Identity Crisis?

Posted by on Sep 11 2013

When rethinking your business model, different roadblocks spring up along the journey. One that nearly always happens is the business identity crisis: What is my business, and where is it going?

It feels as if you’re starting out all over again with incredibly basic questions. Darn! Again? Didn’t you do this at the very beginning of your business?

Sometimes it feels like you’re sliding backwards toward square one. Don’t worry, you’re not.

It can be frustrating when you are trying to transform your business to have to question your entire business model all over again. Truly — it’s necessary, and a wise move for any seasoned business owner. I see it as a great opportunity during your business reinvention process to pause and re-examine The Nine Big Questions.

Here’s an exercise in big-picture thinking for you and your business:

  1. What do you want from your business: emotionally, financially, intellectually?
  2. What personal values does your business reflect?
  3. Have your personal values changed since the last time you created your business model? If yes, what has to change in your new business model to reflect those new values?
  4. What brand does your business currently have? Do you need to re-brand it?
  5. If you re-brand it, what image/message do you now want to project for your new business model?
  6. Which marketing techniques are working and which ones need to be ditched?
  7. Who do you serve and do you still want to serve this audience?
  8. Who are your best customers? Who are your repeat customers? How can you serve them better?
  9. And the biggest question of all: WHY are you in this business? (Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get out.)

Don’t Panic

I know that rethinking your business can feel overwhelming. Take a look at these nine questions and pick just one to ponder. Pick a question that calls to you. Trust your intelligence and gut instinct to select a starting place for rethinking and redesigning your business model.

Business re-design is not just about making decisions and implementing plans. It’s about asking questions, getting clarity and finding focus. You’ll be happy you took the time to ask yourself The Nine Big Questions.

So, how about you? Which Big Question is the one that’s on your mind right now?


18 comments for now

18 Responses to “Are You Having a Business Identity Crisis?”

  1. Great questions Karen. Questions we should be asking ourselves probably about once a year!

    03 Jul 2012 at 11:52 pm

  2. Karyn Greenstreet

    Agreed, Lynn! There are times in a business life cycle when we just need to get the work done, and other times when we need to pause and ask the big questions — over and over again. 🙂

    04 Jul 2012 at 7:36 am

  3. I like your idea and plan to participate however, I have found that too much planning can destroy the impact of the book. That is, we sometimes over think a project and never get it started.
    Although I would have had wider circulation if I had understood the marketing process and the dollars needed to launch a book.
    I am not disappointed nor am I discouraged. My first book was purely a gift to family and friends. My second book reached one hundred or so local Realtors by word of mouth, book signings and guest speaking at the Board Meetings.
    Since that time I have been freelancing…

    07 Jul 2012 at 8:52 am

  4. Thank you Karyn; this is very helpful as I am currently in a transition period with my business. I can see that the questions will definitely assist me in gaining some clarity.

    07 Jul 2012 at 10:38 am

  5. Karyn Greenstreet

    I meet a lot of people who are in business transition, Tucker. In fact, I feel that “transition” and “transformation” are normal parts of the business lifecycle. It happens to ALL of us at some point! 🙂

    04 Aug 2012 at 10:21 am

  6. Rae

    I so appreciate your posts.
    You are the voice of calm and experience and knowledge. I can tell you’ve been steering a successful business a “long” time.
    I still have to consciously resist all those “sparkling” emails that arrive, promising so much and leading me off on unproductive tangents.
    Please keep up the great work that you do.

    04 Aug 2012 at 10:46 am

  7. Karyn Greenstreet

    Thank YOU, Rae, for your kind words. I’m so happy that I’m helping you with this practical advice. I, too, hate those marketers who promise you’ll make a million dollars in 10 days. Yes, sure…we all WANT that. 🙂 But I’ve never seen it happen in the 31 years I’ve been a small biz owner, and I’d rather share practical tips and insightful questions for steady, healthy business growth than weird promises that are full of baloney.

    04 Aug 2012 at 11:22 am

  8. My virtual assistance/e-tech administration business has grown to the point that sometimes I don’t recognize it (or me)! I’ve been asking for some time now: What is happening? And..yikes!…do I WANT this to happen?

    So, I was delighted at how on-target this post was–and amazed that several of the questions caused me discomfort–a great sign that I need to slow down, listen to, and honor what is causing the unease.

    I popped your spot-on questions into a generic text file, separated them out with a bunch of spaces (to give me room to write answers) and created a great little “soul survey” to read and fill in. I’ve scheduled time for myself to take these onto the screened porch, settle down with my assistant (Winston the cat), and give them the time they deserve.

    Karen, I love the fact that you did this for your readers. I know that this very important exercise will help me fine-tune my goals, re-affirm what is important to me, focus on my talents and passions, and attract creative clients who respect and believe in the same things I do. (Hmmm.. quality vs. quantity raises its head)

    This is why I love your posts…even though I usually “lurk” I felt the definite need to publicly and LOUDLY thank you for this..and all your sensible advice and ideas.

    04 Aug 2012 at 3:08 pm

  9. Karyn Greenstreet

    Welcome from lukerdom, Tricia!

    Wow! You really took this exercise to heart and made it your own. I work with a lot of clients and students who are in the same place you are, asking “What’s next?” I’ve been there MANY times myself, so I applaud your journey and your willingness to look at your business and transform it to the new, next business of your dreams. 🙂

    04 Aug 2012 at 3:27 pm

  10. Speaking of business model design, I can recommend a fantastic resource for you and everyone, a book – “Business Model Generation” by Osterwalder & Pigneur (2010). It’s more a workbook that helps a person map their current business model and then switch out different components to change the model. I use this as a group activity with clients during strategic planning. It has also given me new ways to see possible business model changes for myself.

    Thanks for your constant efforts and posts.

    Cheers, Eric

    04 Aug 2012 at 6:05 pm

  11. Karyn Greenstreet

    Yes, a good book, Eric. I also recommend:

    Blue Ocean Strategy
    Rebuilding Your Business Model (Harvard Business Review)
    Seizing the White Space
    Good to Great
    Crossing the Chasm

    There was also a great book full of photos, all about creative business ideas. I wish I could remember the name. When I get back to the office, I’ll check my bookshelves. I remember reading it and thinking, “Wow — so many different ways to think about my business and marketing!”

    04 Aug 2012 at 7:51 pm

  12. Caro M.

    Very helpful questions, Karyn, thank you. I have been thinking about my business future for the past few months and these questions give me a new way of thinking about things. I want to let them churn in my head a bit and see what comes up. Some of them I can answer quickly but some of them caused me to pause, which I think is a good omen. The toughest question now is about who I want to serve…I know it’s changing. 🙂

    04 Aug 2012 at 8:04 pm

  13. Karyn Greenstreet

    Definitely, Caroline, take your time with the questions. Maybe starting a blank page in a notebook or a new Word document, then keep adding to it as more layers unfold?

    04 Aug 2012 at 8:05 pm

  14. Great post Karyn, and the questions are great. I let go of a website a few months ago when I realized it wasn’t where I wanted to focus my energy, and it was becoming a distraction. It took awhile for me to let it go, because of the amount of time I had invested in it. I realize now that I hung onto it longer than I needed to. So I love the questions you pose. It’s an awesome guidance system you’ve created!

    19 Sep 2013 at 8:03 am

  15. Karyn Greenstreet

    You’ve hit on a very important point, Elari. I had a similar conversation with a client last week. Sometimes we do want to let go of something that we’ve put so much time and energy into. But if it no longer fits with who you are or the direction of your business, you must let it go.

    Of course, “selling it” is my favorite way to let go of a business, but I have dropped many projects and many products without worry about, “Can I sell this product line to someone else?” We’re all continually evolving, as are our clients, so taking a good strong look at your business from time-to-time keeps things fresh for everyone.

    19 Sep 2013 at 8:06 am

  16. Perfect timing Karyn! Early morning to do list starts with review of your pointers! I am constantly reevaluating and tweaking

    25 Sep 2013 at 8:57 am

  17. Karyn Greenstreet

    Adela and Chery, you might appreciate this blog post I wrote a while ago about the phases we all go through, while we’re rethinking and tweaking our businesses.

    25 Sep 2013 at 10:26 am

  18. Serendipitous post, Karyn! I’ve been in the thick of this for quite some time. I’ve felt the changes coming on for more than a year, but have really re-visited these questions in the past 6 months seriously.

    Here’s one thing I know: you don’t have to figure it ALL out right now. Businesses are living things and you can still muse and navigate the questions while you’re still in your business.

    Thanks for the clear articulation of of how to revisit the evolution of your business.

    25 Sep 2013 at 10:12 am

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