How Entrepreneurs Solve Problems
Entrepreneurs are going to face unexpected problems on a regular basis. Even when you’ve worked out processes, there are always going to be changes and growing pains. It might be a key staff member who quits to join a competitor, or a system crash just before an important deadline. It could be a production or sales team that consistently fails to meet targets. Dealing with these issues without over-stressing or compromising your company mission is a challenge.
Some personalities thrive on a sense of order, while others shine when it comes to innovation and flexibility. But both small and large problems can be very demanding of your time and budget. You can’t prepare for every potential mishap, so how you respond to your challenges is critical to optimizing business continuity.
A problem is less intimidating if you see it as an opportunity to test your knowledge and demonstrate your leadership. Every problem should automatically trigger acceptance of the situation, evaluation of risks and value, and a plan of action.
Successful entrepreneurs are constantly looking for problems as a course of improvement. Disappointing sales, an injured employee, outdated equipment, and any other negative issue is a problem that needs to be solved. If you’re truly passionate about your business, you’re passionate about resolving problems. Your passion and a sense of urgency can combine into a powerful driving force to develop new ideas and motivate people – so long as those emotions remain positive.
Solving a problem, ideally, should be a collaborative effort. There is rarely an obvious solution. Entrepreneurs are seldom fortunate enough to resolve issues with a single idea or attempt. Most solutions must be scalable and sustainable. The ability to adapt is critical to finding more effective solutions.
However, the approach to solving problems can be an orderly process.
1. Damage Report
You can start by determining how important the problem really is. How significant an impact will it have on your overall objectives or cash flow? Understanding the severity of the issue will indicate how urgent it is to provide a solution. That will help to prioritize your efforts and resources.
Suppose a project you promised to a client is falling behind schedule. How important is it to the client that you meet the deadline – and how important is the client to your business? The answers to these questions can mean the difference between desperate scrambling and simple renegotiating.
2. Understand what’s involved
It’s important to define the problem before taking any steps to correct it. How well you understand what’s happening, and why it’s happening, is essential to coming up with the right solution. Allow yourself time to get feedback from those involved and discuss it with people whose opinions you trust. Research it, diagram it, whatever it takes, but ensure that you are fully informed before offering a solution.
3. Be objective
If the same problems keep coming up, you may start to convince yourself that there is some obstacle you must overcome. You start telling yourself the problem would be solved if only you had the right system, or so-and-so would pay more attention. If you start blaming your problems on specific things and people, it will become a distraction and a source of stress. At times an upgrade or a personnel change may be necessary. But don’t start by assuming that this will fix things.
4. Be accountable
If it’s your company, it’s your problem. Even if you feel you don’t have the time or the best skillset, and delegate finding a solution to someone else, you still have to take charge. Be involved, ask for updates, and take action or offer insights whenever you think necessary. Even if it’s a minor problem, you have to take ownership and make things happen. In all meetings and communications, you have to be the voice of leadership.
5. Don’t lose sight of long-term goals
At times problems can best be solved by working a little overtime or hiring a consultant. But don’t approach every problem in terms of providing the easy fix. Your solutions should be tailored to their long-term value to your company. If you implement a specific change, what consequences might that have six months or two years from now? For instance, how will throwing money at new software or new equipment affect your funding for other planned projects? It’s important to step back and measure the inherent risks and potential rewards of problems and fixes in measurable terms, whether it’s time, money, or personnel.
6. Be prepared to shift gears
Some problems just don’t have a clear fix, no matter what creative tactics you come up with. But the great thing about entrepreneurship is that you own the ideas as well as the problems. You may find that the process of solving one puzzle leads to more effective strategies overall, or leads to the solution for a completely different problem. It’s vital to stay innovative and not get trapped in a particular idea. Stubbornly persisting with something that didn’t help is a waste of time and money. Some leaders may not want to let things go for fear of being proven wrong or seen as a failure. It’s much better to step back, re-evaluate, and formulate another approach.
If you keep control of your emotions, you can transform stress into focus, both on your own part and that of your team. By viewing problems as an organizational puzzle rather than a calamity you can remain creative and objective, rather than waste time on inappropriate solutions. It’s essential to find the root of the problem. Over time, part of your company culture should be the development and incorporation of a method of innovation and problem solving. Making this work proactively is the best way to catch problems sooner rather than later.