Solving Common Business Problems
As the owner of your own consulting services business, you deal with clients' problems on a daily basis. Learning how to effectively solve your own business problems can dramatically affect the growth and success of your business. Most business owners solve problems by intuition. By learning the necessary skills, you will become more comfortable with solving problems and reduce the inherent stress of your job.
What is a problem? A problem is a situation that presents an obstacle to your desire to move ahead. Here are a few examples:
A client threatens to sue you for the results of advice you gave.
Your industry is declining rapidly because of a new law.
A computer program doesn't function as it should.
A part you need for your copy machine is unavailable.
An employee is undermining your authority with clients.
New business income is down.
You're two payments behind on a lease.
Where do problems come from? Problems arise from every facet of human and mechanical functions as well as from nature. We cause some problems (hiring an untrainable employee) ourselves. Other problems, such as tornadoes, are caused by forces beyond our control.
Problems are a natural, everyday occurrence of life. However, if a problem is mismanaged, it causes tension and frustration that only compounds the situation. Successful business people must learn how to deal with problems in a logical, rational fashion.
Steps to Solving the Problem
The solutions to some problems, such as how to plan a heavy workload next week, are typically simple and require only a few moments of contemplation and planning. However, other problems, such as how to increase income by $50,000 in the next six months, are more critical to your operation and will require more time and effort. In fact, for critical problems, you may want to set aside a full day for analyzing the problem and finding the best solution.
Recognize the Problem
Before you can solve a problem, you must first recognize that it exists. Here is where your approach to problem solving is crucial. You should not allow the problem to intimidate you. Don't take it personally. Approach it rationally and remind yourself that every problem is solvable if it is tackled appropriately.
Fear of failure can block your ability to think clearly. You can overcome this natural fear if you:
Follow a workable procedure for finding solutions
Accept the fact that you can't foresee everything
Assume that the solution you select is your best option at the time
Accept the possibility that things may change and your solution may fail
Define the Problem
Once you recognize that a problem exists, your next step is to identify or define the problem itself. You can do so by asking yourself such questions as:
What exactly happened?
What started the problem?
Did something occur that wasn't supposed to?
Did something break that was supposed to operate?
Were there unexpected results?
Determine the Type of Problem
Ask questions that help you identify the nature of the problem:
Is this a personnel, equipment, or operational problem?
What product or service does it involve?
Is the problem tangible or intangible?
Is the problem internal or external to the firm?
How important is the problem to the scheme of things? Ask yourself:
Is this problem disrupting operations?
Is this problem hampering sales?
Is this problem causing conflict among people?
Is this problem affecting personnel and their productivity?
Is this problem affecting business goals and, if so, which ones?
Is this problem affecting clients, suppliers, independent contractors, or any other external people?
Some problems are 100-year floods that don't occur often enough to warrant extensive attention. Ask these questions:
Is it a problem that occurred in the past and the main concern is to make certain that it doesn't occur again?
Is it a problem that currently exists and the main concern is to clear up the situation?
Is it a problem that might occur in the future, and the basic concern is planning and taking action before the problem arises?
The answers to these questions will help you focus on the true problem. You can't effectively research the causes of a problem until you have a clear definition of what the problem is. Sometimes, managers spend many hours on a problem only to learn, after seeking the causes, that they've been focusing on the wrong issue.