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Self-Assessment Survey for:

ID for the survey:

Successful inventors-turned-entrepreneurs must have a range of skills and knowledge. Here is a list of 12 competencies for enterprises with a proven product or service that are working to validate a business model that will enable them to scale.

Listed next to each competency is your score, based on the answers you provided. The score is followed by questions for self-reflection and for discussion with your mentor.


1. Ability to test the business model and refine until it works.

Your score on this competency is:

Probably the most important aspect of your business at this point is to be able to refine the business model until it is validated. This needs to be done in a very deliberate manner, so that the information is gathered systematically and is used to inform the process until the business can really take off and grow. Questions to consider:

  • If sales are decreasing or stagnant, it might be good to capture customer feedback and/or sales data to see if this has to do with price or the product itself. This will inform the refinement of your product and/or business model. Are you doing all you can to capture and assess customer feedback? What are customers saying? Are you assessing this information to make adjustments to the price, product, and distribution channels?
  • If sales are growing, then your business model is headed in the right direction. Are you evaluating this closely to assess the drivers of this growth in sales to make sure that they continue to grow?
  • At this stage of your enterprise, you need to carefully balance your time between focusing on strategy and growth while spending some time on operations and product refinement. Do you think you have the right balance? How can you improve it?
  • Are you refining your product and/or your business model at the right rate? At this stage, it is important to continue refining your product at an even pace which allows you enough time to test it with your customers while also making needed adjustments based on their feedback. Revisions that are too quick will not give you time to see the effects. At some point, this process should be consolidated and allow you to begin more accelerated growth. Do you have metrics to assess how changes to your product affect sales and customer satisfaction? Are you planning on taking on more product refinement? If not, is this because you think that this is not needed or because you prefer to pass this onto your team?

2. Ability to chart a path forward for the enterprise and the financing it will need to bring it to fruition.

Your score on this competency is:

As the leader of your enterprise, you must set the direction for the enterprise and acquire the needed financing and other resources to keep the enterprise moving. Questions to consider:

  • The ability to lead the enterprise forward with a clear plan, but also being able to react to changes and solve immediate challenges, is critical at this stage of development. Here are the top priorities you listed:
    Are these all strategic areas related to planning, building the team, building your networks and fundraising? If not, can you begin to transition some of these day-to-day operations activities to your team?
  • Decision-making is critical at this stage of your enterprise. Do think your current balance of relying on intuition, information, team input, and/or enterprise goals is working? What changes might you make to strengthen your ability to make quick, but smart, decisions?
  • Are there certain operations and/or product development responsibilities that you plan to continue to carry out personally, rather than transitioning them to the team? If so, is this because this is what you enjoy doing? Or because the team does not have the skills or capacity to take this on? What are the pros and cons of retaining operations and product development responsibilities yourself as the enterprise grows? If the team might not have the needed skills to take on some of the operations and product development that you have been doing, is there a way to train them in these skills?
  • Things change fast in early-stage enterprises. Do you plan to make time in the next 3 months to update your strategic plan? How can you ensure you will have time set aside for this?

3. Capacity to operationalize the business with a realistic cost revenue structure

Your score on this competency is:

Being able to operationalize the business with a realistic cost-revenue structure is key to your enterprise’s survival and ability to scale. Finding the optimal cost-revenue structure will allow you to generate the profit needed for growth. As you look at your enterprise and your role in this phase of experimentation with the cost-revenue structure, some questions to consider are:

  • If the enterprise has not been meeting projections, why do you think this is happening? Do you have the best possible cycle of innovation in which you systematically capture market feedback, use that to refine the product and/or business model, evaluate the impact on the business, adjust projections, and repeat?
  • Entering new markets with new products is challenging. There is a direct tie between marketing and sales. Are you investing enough on marketing costs? Are there operational costs that can be reduced to free up budget for additional marketing?
  • Financial management is crucial for providing the data that helps you decide how to fine tune your business, but this management is time-consuming. Are you spending more time on the financial side of operations than you would like? Is there a way to delegate some of your current responsibilities in this area to someone else on your team?

4. Committed to developing standard processes that will maintain quality and consistency as other team members take over operations

Your score on this competency is:

During the start-up stage of the business, it was necessary to remain flexible and test out different processes, from product development to product distribution and sales. At this stage of the enterprise, however, it is important that you develop standard processes to ensure the quality and consistency of the product and its delivery. Having documented processes will also enable you to turn over more of the operations responsibilities to your team, freeing you up for more strategic activities. Here are some questions to consider:

  • If you have few standard processes in place at the moment, why is this? How can you document more processes? What is a reasonable goal for the next three months in the area of process documentation?
  • For the standard processes that are in place, are you the one developing them? If so, is there anyone else on the team that can be doing this? Transitioning these activities will free you up for more strategic activities and give other team members more ownership of the processes.
  • Are there operational areas of the business that require your direct involvement because no one on the team has the right skills and experience? If so, this is holding back your enterprise because your time is going into operations instead of strategy and fundraising. Can you overcome this through training, hiring, or some other strategy?
  • As you transition out of day-to-day operations, you need to ensure that you still keep your eyes on operations until the business model is validated. What mechanisms do you have in place to stay in touch with operations in way that doesn’t slow down the team nor take more of your time than necessary?

5. Committed to capturing customer and beneficiary feedback to validate the product/service for the segments

Your score on this competency is:

At this stage of your enterprise, it is important to capture customer and beneficiary feedback to validate and refine your product/service for your market segment. This is key in order to be able to make refinements and get to a point that you can prepare for growth.

  • Are you still personally tracking customer feedback? Even though your role now focuses on strategy and fundraising, it is as important as ever for you to have some direct interaction with customers and their feedback. If you do not have time for this, how might you lessen the time on other activities to do so?
  • By having your hands in operations, especially in the systems to capture data, you can ensure that it continues to be an important focus at this stage of your business. But, if you are doing more than your share of operations, including spending most of your time with customers, your business will not be able to grow. Think about your operations responsibilities. Why do you have these? Is it because you are the best person or because you like doing these tasks? What changes could you make that would empower your team and free your time for more strategic work?

6. Capacity to recruit team members with more specialized skills to take over day to day operations

Your score on this competency is:

Key to the success of your business at this stage is to identify, build, and manage a team with more specialized skills to take over day-to-day operations. Questions to think about:

  • If you are not in the process of transitioning most of your day-to-day and product development responsibilities to your team, why is this? How can you speed up the process?
  • You listed these weaknesses for your team:
    Given these weaknesses, will you be able to hand off your day-to-day operations to them? Is it feasible for them to build these skills, and if so what is your plan to make that happen? If you think that they will not be able to build the skills, do you have a plan to identify and hire new team members?

7. Ability to mitigate challenges and make judgement calls to prevent mission distractions and keep team focused and productive

Your score on this competency is:

No doubt that you are facing many challenges at this stage of business development. It is important to be able to mitigate these challenges on a timely basis in order to prevent mission distractions and keep the team focused and productive. It is important to draw support from objective, supportive outside advisors, as long as they are provided with the information needed to provide a balanced perspective. Using tactics and getting input from others, as well as going by intuition, is a very sound way to try to solve problems and meet your ultimate goals. You must also be sensitive to the need to inform your team, seek their input, while also shielding a bit from some of the overall challenges of the company so that they can stay focused. That motivation will go far in helping them to stay focused. Questions to consider:

  • Do you have systems in place that allow you to make informed decisions? How can those be strengthened given the current stage of your enterprise?
  • Are you satisfied with your network of mentors and advisors who can give you external advice when needed? How can you build this network to address any gaps? How can you leverage it most effectively?

8. Can demonstrate and communicate credibility of business to potential donors, investors and other partners

Your score on this competency is:

In order for the business to be validated and begin to grow, it is very important to have the backing of donors, investors and strategic partners, which requires the ability to make a convincing case of why they should support you. Important questions are:

  • If you are limited in your systems for tracking information, metrics and decision-making based on information, it will be challenging to demonstrate your credibility. What can you implement in the next 3 months that will give you better data and answers to the questions that potential supporters are likely to ask?
  • How often are you revising your growth plan? Most entrepreneurs at the validate stage find that a formal revision every 4-6 months is about right. When you make these revisions, are you communicating these updates to potential investors and partners? How can you best leverage these updates to convert potential supporters into committed supporters?

9. Disciplined to lead the adoption of metrics to manage the business and track impact

Your score on this competency is:

The need to track, manage, and measure impact is indispensable at this stage of the business in order to validate the business and assess its potential to have even greater impact. Your system can be simple with just a few indicators and tracked in a spreadsheet. Questions to consider:

  • Do you have an adequate metrics tracking system in place? If the system needs to be created or strengthened, do you have a plan to accomplish this in the next 3 months? Does your plan leverage other team members and resources so as not to take more of your time than necessary?
  • How are you leveraging the metrics data you have to make refinements in your business model?

10. Ability to build and leverage a network of relevant stakeholders- mentors, board members, employees, industry experts, investors, donors, partners

Your score on this competency is:

Social enterprise success requires the backing of a dynamic and supporting network of mentors, board members, industry experts, investors, donors and partners. It is the role of the CEO to develop and lead this network. Questions to consider:

  • How do you prioritize networking opportunities?
  • Are there certain opportunities better suited for other members of your team than you?
  • How do you manage existing relationships and make sure that you keep these supporters informed and engaged? Can you better leverage your team for this management to free your time for networking with potential new stakeholders?

11. Can identify partners/service providers that will contribute to the validation of the enterprise: cost structures, documented evidence of impact, operational efficiencies

Your score on this competency is:

Having strong partnerships with organizations and firms as well as relationships with reliable service providers is critical to ensure the validation of the enterprise and positioning it for growth. Questions to consider:

  • Do you have enough service providers and/or partnerships for all your needs? Are there activities that are draining your internal resources that could be outsourced?
  • If you are doing a limited amount of systems-building and metrics tracking metrics, is this because this has not been a priority for you? Would it be helpful to find service providers that could help you with this?
  • Are there ways that you would like to strengthen these relationships and partnerships?
  • Who in your enterprise owns these relationships? If you own relationships that are related to product development or operations, how can you begin passing on some of these relationships to other members of the team?

12. Country-specific knowledge related to market niche

Your score on this competency is:

Part of your growth will require you to have a very clear idea of the current and new markets that you are targeting- whether local, national or regional. You will need to know how to adapt your product and build your team to respond to these market segments. Questions to consider:

  • Have you done enough research and/or assessment of your current market niche to know how the local context might that affect your business?
  • Do you have the data and expertise about your current market segment and future market segments to guide your growth strategy? If not, how can you acquire that information and insight? Can you better leverage your partnerships to help you to carry out the research for new target markets or provide you with any relevant information?
  • Does your marketing plan strategically leverage the data you have gathered so far?