Now that you have these power tools to use as you analyze your business ideas, I discuss three final questions to use as a stress test before you start a business.

Over the years I’ve created dozens of products and services. In the process, I’ve realized that it can be a chore to decide where to place your resources. I’ve learned to ask myself three basic questions:

• What is mandatory to play?
• What is necessary to compete?
• What is required to win?

The exercise is wonderfully simple: identify the various functional pieces or features of your product or service and filter each one of them through these three questions. This short but powerful exercise puts you in a position to very specifically understand what you need to do to succeed—and when.

First things first, what actions do you need to take to get into the space? What is mandatory to play? You can’t win a game you’re not in. Once you’re playing, though, you can focus your remaining resources on the next steps. How do you stick around and compete? Finally, with your foot in the door and your feature set growing, what do you need to do to win? What differentiates you and your product from the competition? This line of questioning will help you stay focused and keep you from exerting energy on activities that don’t give you direct value.

Let’s look at GRB.

1) What is mandatory to play?

Your brother-in-law is your channel connection, but it’s time to lock it down. Get the contract signed and ready to go. Where will you keep your inventory and make your product? And are you sure it tastes good?

2) What is necessary to compete?

Look at what it will take to finalize your pricing, create inventory, get shelf space, and establish a sales force. And then, watch your timing.

3) What is required to win?

Now it’s time to concentrate on the shape of the bottle, the colors on the label, personal endorsements, and value proposition (vitamins and minerals, remember?). Buy billboard space! Set up magazine ads! Get on Oprah!

Don’t let the simplicity of this test fool you. You really don’t need to overanalyze your idea or over-engineer your product. Stick with the essentials to play, compete, and win.

Porter’s Points – Play, Compete, Win

• Your resources are valuable to you and the success of your venture – at any stage of the game. Thoughtfully determine where you will expend them.
• First things first—ALWAYS!

That does it for Chapter 3: Power Tools. Next we move to Chapter 4: Got Gas?