You biggest business problem can be lack of money to pay for basic expenses, not enough clients, debt, or low profits. An employee you can’t find or an employee you desperately need to let go. Poor morale or too much work.
Whatever it is, it’s not a challenge; it’s a PROBLEM! What’s the difference? Challenges are technical difficulties and have technical solutions. As a business owner, you solve these all the time. Problems, on the other hand, are nerve-wracking. They unsettle you emotionally. They drive you crazy and make you angry. They make your stomach turn.
We can stay friends with challenges. But with problems, it is personal!
This post is about finding solutions for those kinds of problems. If you are facing a major business problem, here are the six steps that will give you the mental energy to overcome it and the practical tips for finding the solution.
- Problems are normal – We tend to think of problems as something abnormal. If things go smoothly, we take that for granted, but if something goes wrong, we blame ourselves and others. “Something must be wrong with me if I got into this bind,” we tell ourselves. This thought is very disempowering. And it’s completely wrong!
Problems are not only normal, they are the very fabric of life. In his writings Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook, a major Jewish thinker at the turn of the 20th century, asks a complex question. If God is perfect, than by definition He has no room for perfecting. That means He is lacking an important trait of making things better. And that implies a lack in God, which is of course is impossible because, He lacks nothing in perfection.
The paradox is not just an interesting mind-twister. It’s the reason for this world’s existence. The ability to perfect, to take a lack and fill it, to make things better is the reason behind the Creation. In other words, the reason you are here, is to problem-solve and improve on things. Which leads out to the second point.
- Problems make things better – problems can be very painful. They are unnerving and unpleasant. But they make you stronger and ultimately lead you to making better business choices. If you have faced problems in the past, you know that the solutions you found expanded and improved your business.
Instead of thinking of the problem as a headache, think of it a diamond-mining experience. You need to do a lot of difficult digging. You get hot, tired, and dirty. But at the end of the dig, there is a diamond. The faith in the process and in the outcome will give you the strength to pull through it.
- You don’t have to solve all of it – problems are daunting, because you look at all the effort that has to go into solving them and it looks unsurmountable. “Oh man, I have to do all of that?!” And you think that it is just too hard. That you’ll never succeed. That you’ll never get to the bottom of it.
It’s simply not true. You don’t have to make 100% of the effort to solve 100% of the problem. Ever hear of the 80/20 rule? 20% of your efforts create 80% of your results. That’s right. You have to solve the first 20% of the problem and then it will largely solve itself.
When launching a new product, you only need to sell to about 20-25% of the early adopters. Then you reach a tipping point and sales snowball. A year ago, I told this to a manager of a new company selling an innovative service. She didn’t believe me. But a few weeks ago she shared that it’s exactly what happened. One day they reached 25% capacity and the next thing they knew, they were completely booked.
And it makes sense. In the weekly Torah portion of Ekev, we read “And remember Hashem your God as He gives you the strength to prevail.” (Dvarim/Deuteronomy 9:18). God doesn’t need us to serve problems (see above). He could have created a perfect world. He wants us to make an effort. To exert ourselves. And then He picks up the slack. If we do our 20%, He’ll fill in the missing 80.
This is something I have seen in business time and time again. I work hard on starting a process and at a certain point things just fall into place. Think back to your life. Has this happened to you?
Now on to the practical solutions.
- Change your vantage point – To find a solution, you need to approach the problem from a different direction. Often, we have a one-size-fits-all approach to problem solving. Finding the actual cause of the problem is half the solution. And it might not be obvious.
The other day a lawyer called me, asking for help getting more clients, because her business wasn’t making enough profits. A short conversation showed that she is already working at full capacity with the clients she has, but she is simply not making money. We figured out that she spends too much time on each case doing unnecessary work and she also undercharges.
Bringing more clients would not have created more income for this business. It would have actually made things worse by burning her out. Instead she needed a careful 360-degree overview of her business to identify the gaps. Once we figured out the actual problem, finding the solutions was simple. All she needs are better organization of her office and a new pricelist (together with the courage to ask for what she is worth).
The solution to your problem may lie in a different industry. Talk to people in other fields. Check out trade shows for other fields. Go to conferences for adjacent professions. There is a great chance you’ll get some insights you’ll be able to bring back and apply in solving your challenge.
- Get external help – Nobody said you have to do it all. We don’t know everything. In particular, we don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes we resist asking for help because we feel vulnerable and stupid. We are afraid of judgement.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help, because there is nothing wrong with dealing with problems (remember point 1?). Asking for help will make people respect you more, not less, since it shows resourcefulness and a fighting spirit.
External advice, whether from a friend, a colleague, or a professional, can be invaluable. Think of other people, who have faced similar challenges and ask them how they overcame them. Ask them about resources you could use. It will give you a different perspective on the issue (see 4 above) and will let you learn something new (see below).
Also ask yourself whether solving this problem is the best use of your time. Maybe you are better off hiring an employee and getting a contractor to solve the problem professionally, while you do the work you do best.
- Learn new skills – The final possibility for your difficulty could be that the problem exceeds your skill level. You need to learn something new to tackle it. A new money-management skill. A new marketing technique. A new negotiating strategy. A new mindset.
9 out of 10 chances someone somewhere has already faced and solved the problem. Learn from their experience. Books, courses, online resources, professional advisers are all excellent tools for getting the information you need to solve the biggest problem.
If you can’t find a ready-made solution, you might be facing a totally new problem. And that makes you an innovator and a trend-setter. Don’t give up. You, your business and the world will be all better for it.
What has been your biggest business problem? How did you solve it? Please share your experience.