The 3 Question Entrepreneur’s Compass

Tailored for startup founders, this article provides an in-depth analysis of the essential questions that shape entrepreneurial success. It explores the intersection of personal goals, strategic planning, and execution, offering valuable insights for founders. It’s an ideal roadmap, guiding founders through the challenging terrain of entrepreneurship.
The 3 Question Entrepreneur's Compass


The entrepreneurial journey is a path filled with twists and turns, highs and lows, and a myriad of questions that need answering. It’s a journey that requires courage, resilience, and a deep understanding of one’s personal and business goals. The article “The Questions Every Entrepreneur Must Answer” by Amar Bhidé, published in the Harvard Business Review in 1996, provides a valuable framework for entrepreneurs to navigate this journey. However, I believe that the insights can be expanded upon, and in doing so, provide a more comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs.

I will attempt to delve deeper into the questions posed by Bhidé, exploring the nuances and complexities that entrepreneurs face in their quest for success. This exploration will not only provide a more detailed guide for entrepreneurs but also offer insights into the philosophical and psychological aspects of entrepreneurship.

Part 1: Where Do I Want to Go?

The first question that Bhidé poses is: “Where do I want to go?” This question is about setting clear and specific personal and business goals. It’s about understanding what you want to achieve with your venture and what you’re willing to risk to get there.

1.1 Personal Goals and Business Vision

As an entrepreneur, your personal goals are inextricably linked to your business goals. Your vision for your business is a reflection of your personal aspirations, values, and desires. Whether you’re seeking financial independence, a flexible lifestyle, or the thrill of creating something new, your personal goals will shape the direction and purpose of your business.

However, it’s important to delve deeper into these personal goals. What does financial independence mean to you? Is it about having a certain amount in your bank account, or is it about the freedom to make choices without worrying about financial constraints? What does a flexible lifestyle look like? Is it about having the freedom to work from anywhere, or is it about having control over your time?

Understanding the nuances of your personal goals will help you create a more precise vision for your business. It will guide your decisions and strategies, and it will serve as a compass when you face challenges and uncertainties.

1.2 The Kind of Enterprise Required

Once you have a clear understanding of your personal goals, you need to consider the kind of enterprise required to achieve these goals. This involves considering the size, structure, and nature of the business you need to build.

If your goal is to sell your business eventually, you need to build a sustainable enterprise that can thrive without your daily intervention. This requires building a strong team, creating efficient systems and processes, and establishing a strong market presence.

On the other hand, if your goal is to maintain a flexible lifestyle, you may opt for a smaller, more manageable business. This might mean keeping a lean team, maintaining a hands-on approach, and focusing on a niche market.

1.3 Risk Tolerance

Building a business involves taking risks. These risks can be financial, such as investing your savings into your business, or they can be personal, such as sacrificing time with family or giving up a stable job. Understanding your risk tolerance is crucial in setting your business goals.

Your risk tolerance is influenced by various factors, including your financial situation, your personality, and your life stage. For instance, if you have a family to support, you might be less willing to take financial risks compared to someone who is single. Similarly, if you’re naturally risk-averse, you might prefer to grow your business slowly and steadily, rather than taking big leaps.

Part 2: How Will I Get There?

Once you have a clear understanding of where you want to go, the next question to consider is: “How will I get there?” This involves formulating a strategy that will guide your business towards your goals.

2.1 Strategy Definition

A well-defined strategy provides a clear direction for your business. It articulates your business’s mission, vision, and values, and it outlines your plans for achieving your business goals.

Your strategy should be concise and easily understood by your team, your investors, and your customers. It should provide a clear roadmap for your business, outlining what you will do and what you won’t do. It should also provide a framework for decision-making, helping you to make consistent and aligned decisions.

2.2 Profitability and Growth

A sound strategy should enable your business to generate sufficient profits and growth. This involves understanding your market, identifying your competitive advantage, and creating a business model that allows for profitability and growth.

Understanding your market involves researching your target customers, your competitors, and the trends and dynamics in your industry. Identifying your competitive advantage involves understanding what sets your business apart from others and how you can leverage this to attract customers and generate sales.

Creating a profitable business model involves designing your products or services, pricing, sales and distribution, and customer service in a way that generates revenue and controls costs. It also involves planning for growth, considering how you can scale your business, and what resources you will need to do so.

2.3 Sustainability

Finally, your strategy should consider the sustainability of your business. This involves thinking about the long-term viability of your business and how it can adapt to changes and challenges in the future.

Sustainability can involve various aspects of your business, including financial sustainability, environmental sustainability, and social sustainability. Financial sustainability involves ensuring that your business can continue to generate profits over the long term. Environmental sustainability involves considering the environmental impact of your business and how you can minimize this. Social sustainability involves considering the social impact of your business, including how it affects your employees, your customers, and your community.

Part 3: Can I Do It?

The final question that Bhidé poses is: “Can I do it?” This question is about execution – your ability to implement your strategy and achieve your business goals.

3.1 Resources

The first aspect of execution is resources. This includes the financial resources you need to start and grow your business, the human resources you need to carry out your operations, and the physical resources you need, such as equipment or premises.

Financial resources can come from various sources, including your savings, loans, or investment from others. Human resources involve not only hiring employees but also managing them effectively and creating a positive and productive work environment. Physical resources will depend on the nature of your business and can involve various considerations, such as cost, location, and size.

3.2 Infrastructure

The second aspect of execution is infrastructure. This involves the systems and processes you need to run your business effectively. This can include your operational processes, your management systems, your technology systems, and your financial systems.

Creating effective infrastructure involves planning, organization, and

ongoing management. It requires understanding the needs of your business, identifying the best solutions, and implementing them effectively. It also involves continuous improvement, regularly reviewing and updating your systems and processes to ensure they remain effective and efficient.

3.3 Leadership

The final aspect of execution is leadership. As an entrepreneur, you are the leader of your business. Your leadership skills and style will significantly influence the success of your business.

Effective leadership involves various skills, including communication, decision-making, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence. It also involves various roles, including setting the vision for your business, motivating and inspiring your team, and managing the day-to-day operations of your business.


The entrepreneurial journey is a complex and challenging one. It requires not only a clear vision and a sound strategy but also the ability to execute effectively. By delving deeper into the questions posed by Bhidé, we can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the journey and the challenges it entails.

However, it’s important to remember that there are no definitive answers to these questions. Each entrepreneur’s journey is unique, shaped by their personal goals, their business vision, their risk tolerance, and their leadership style. The key is to continually ask these questions, to reflect on your goals and strategies, and to adapt and evolve as you navigate your entrepreneurial journey.

“The best way to become an entrepreneur is to just start. You’ll figure it out.”

So, start asking these questions, start exploring the answers, and start your entrepreneurial journey.

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