From Frustrated Entrepreneur to Thriving Business: Finding your Why? What? How? and Who?

Almost anyone can develop a great idea, few can turn that idea into a successful and sustainable business. The line between a great idea and a great business can be clear in some instances and blurred in others. Typically though it comes down to four fundamental questions. What? Why? How? and Who?

The Why? Why must be the pre-step for any tangible movement from idea to strategy. If you can’t answer the why with 100% defensibility, you don’t have a business to begin with. Great ideas don’t necessarily come with “whys”, especially at the early stages. They often need to be crafted into a form that leaves nothing to the imagination. This is an exercise that is very difficult for many entrepreneurs, who tend to be a bit idealistic about their ideas. Often this becomes the sticking point that prevents a great idea from transforming into a great business.  The unquestionable logic of doing a feasibility study prior to starting any business, is precisely to see if an objective why exists.

Why is your business needed?
Why is it better than the existing options?
Why do I (we, they, whoever) care?

If you don’t have a why, your concept doesn’t have a chance.

The What? What are you selling? What service are you providing? The what should be the easiest question to answer. This is the base of your idea. The most important part of the what is to never get too attached to it. The what will always need to be dictated by the why and the who, and often modified by the how. Realize that your original what, is like a stick figure, the why gives it flesh, the who gives it clothes and the how makes it walk. The what needs all of it’s curious partners to be able to come to life.

The How? A rather odd phenomena tends to affect otherwise perfectly intelligent people when ignited with the passion of a business idea. They forget that there is a roadmap needed (aka, their ‘strategy’) that takes you from concept to business. As wonderful as it would be to miraculously transform your idea into a successful business without lifting a finger. Unfortunately, there is no magic, the how is hard work if you do it right.. Every idea needs a strong and detailed how that takes into account it’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (the SWOT). Even the strongest concept and the most talented team, will sit idle with out a how.

The Who? Both an English rockband and the people who will ultimately make your business profitable. The who is your market. Know them, love them and mold your idea to meet their needs. The who is motivated by the why, attracted to the what and recruited by the how. They are the nexus of your business and if you don’t operate around them and their needs you will spin out of orbit (and perhaps out of the entire solar system!).

It is vital to throughly research your who and truly understand their needs, motivation, concentration and overall behavior. Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of ‘guesstimating’ their who in a way that conveniently makes the outlook more favorable for their business. Know your numbers, business planning needs to be based on fact, not hypothesis!

The Why? the What? the How? and the Who? four questions that make the difference between a frustrated entrepreneur and a thriving one.

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laura-petrolinoLaura Petrolino is Managing Director of Flying Pig Communications, a communications and business consulting firm which focuses on the needs of startups, small business and non-profits. She also serves as Chief Communications Officer at Ignite Venture Partners, which brings together consulting, capital, and concept incubation to build value in businesses of all sizes and stages, and across industries.. Find her on twitter @lkpetrolino and @365startups


  1. Thanks for your comment. So much of starting a new venture is unknown, a smart entrepreneur needs to work to at least start knowing as much as possible!

  2. Ryan Critchett says:

    Good points. It’s definitely imperative to get clear on what you’re doing, once you’re able to form those understandings. Sometimes however, it takes more time and you have to engage in marketing, and actual customer work, to understand your operation (and where you’re going) more clearly.

  3. Very interesting. I am putting together my official business plan now. And if possible, I would love to see yours when you started your business.