Your startup will go through phases of fast and furious, a lot of progress, and you’ll be feeling like you can take over the world. There are other times where it feels stuck, everything on the surface looks like it should be moving forward, but some issues need to be worked out.
Spotting the issues as they arise or even before they become a problem will get better over time. What is important is that you have a practical approach to your problem-solving.
At face value, problems feel complicated, overwhelming, and often that we aren’t doing our jobs effectively. But every issue that arises within a business is actually something you can learn from and use in the future.
So how do you go about solving the issues you are facing?
Not every problem is a problem; that is the first thing. Not every ‘issue’ that arises is going to be something you need to solve. Many entrepreneurs will jump to action immediately when they see a problem.
It can be more important to step back and see if the problem is as severe as it first looks and does it require action?
Typically things that are an issue will be defined in multiple ways – it won’t just be a single way that it can be approached, and it may also have numerous outcomes.
For example, say that your website traffic seems to have taken a noticeable decline. It could be that the content isn’t resonating, it could be that your marketing efforts aren’t working – but it could also be that competitors are bidding on ‘your’ search terms, or that there is an issue on your website.
Problems aren’t always clear-cut and, as such, need to be challenged.
You or Others
Although many of the problems that arise in the business can be solved by you, during growth periods and scaling, you are going to need to make sure that you have suitable hires and partnerships in place.
In the early days, you and a computer can tackle most things, but as you expand and you have a bigger team – you need more.
You’ll need to consider things like accountancy firms, IT services, web designers, social media managers, and eventually HR & Payroll.
Can you solve the problem alone, or is it a problem that another professional should be tackling for you?
Once you have assigned the responsibility or you have hired the correct parties to handle the matter, you still need to make sure you are kept updated and that the problem is moving along – of being solved.
Let it be
You might know the saying that says change what you can accept what you can’t. Some problems arise that you can’t do anything about, and in fact, they would be a waste of time and resources to try to change.
You need to see the difference between problems that might be opportunities in disguise and problems that aren’t yours to fix.
It can be tempting to be bullheaded and ‘attack’ the issue, but sometimes it is better to let it go and concentrate on where you can make a difference.
When you challenge the problem and highlight all of the potential issues you may face, you can also begin building a range of possible strategies to fix the problem.
But what is essential here is that the solution that you create is sustainable and either prevents or fixes the same problem (or similar ones) in the future.
When you have a single problem, you should create at least five possible solutions – think outside the box here. The right solution will be in direct proportion to the problem.
And when you do consider solutions, look for something that is long-term, ‘band-aid’ solutions might give you time, but they aren’t your best option.
The longer you are in business, the faster you will be able to see what the correct prioritization is.
There is a difference between what is acceptable and the best. The best solution might cost more money, more time, and have a longer timeframe, but a satisfactory solution might be faster, cost-effective, and, more importantly – work.
You should look to find the balance between what you find acceptable, a band-aid solution, and a more extended, more complex option.
Another saying that you might be familiar with is that every significant issue was a minor issue that was ignored or not well handled when it first arose.
You also need to factor in what you are willing to use in terms of money, time, and resources to fix the issue. Perhaps your priority is to fix the problem with as little cash as possible.
Decide what matters the most to you and how you intend to run your business.
It can be a challenge to set KPIs on problems, but it is also an essential step in the process. What are the measurements of success?
Using the example of a website that has seen a downturn in traffic, you can set a KPI as the traffic increases back to its usual rate. That is a simple KPI, and it should be just one of many.
You should also keep in mind that, like most things, when you solve a problem and implement people or processes to fix them, there will be an impact elsewhere in the company.
Also, keep an eye out for any unintended side effects – because sometimes those can be worse than the minor issue.
Problem-solving is a skill that takes years of practice to do well. Usually, the ability to see a problem and then come up with multiple solutions is a highly coveted skill.
Rather than go into ‘putting fires out’ mode, take a moment, and assess what the problem really needs. Is it the big guns? Or is it some time to unfold?
Problem-solving is just one of the things that you can do to keep your business running well and being successful, but there are others: Top Tips For Running A Successful Small Business.