The Most Important Question CEOs Should Ask Before Next Earnings Season

The Most Important Question CEOs Should Ask Before Next Earnings Season

Switching your focus from reactive and defensive strategies to future-focused growth requires leveraging your true strategic differentiator. This article provides a framework for future-proofing your business and helping it stand out.

Many CEOs have once again spent earnings season focused on the past—and often on the defensive.

Yet the best ones use moments like these to go on the offensive. They see them as opportunities to change the discussion from the past to the future. When done right, they can allow you to clearly articulate for yourself—and your teams—what you’re going to double down on.

Making a compelling case about the future begins with what seems like a very basic question: What do we do that no one else can do? Only in this way can you identify your true strategic differentiator.

Are you rolling your eyes? I get it. More than a few of my clients start off seeing such exercises as soft and fluffy, unnecessary detours from more pressing matters. But with so many industries facing existential threats, no one’s buying the traditional playbook.

Just ask Bob Iger. Even with the sure-bet CEO back at Disney (at least, for now), Wall Street isn’t swayed by the plan to simply cut costs and offer dividends by the end of the year. Why should we believe that Disney can navigate its threats in a way that also positions it for growth? What about the succession plan when Iger moves on (again)? We don’t know—and I’m not sure they do either at the moment.

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To help my clients avoid similar scenarios, I ask them to go through the exercise with me in which I ask them what their organization does that no one else can do. They quickly realize it’s not as simple as they thought. They’ll start by talking about their assets and capabilities like their mobile app or their front-line staff.

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Colleen Murray


Colleen works with executives through large-scale transformations: reinventing businesses and unlocking new markets. Her experience has crossed a number of industries, including consumer electronics, digital entertainment, consumer packaged goods, and office environments.