10 Problem Solving Strategies for Business Owners
Nobody likes being faced with problems. But sometimes, running a business can seem to be nothing but a series of challenges. So, business owners must develop problem-solving strategies to help them resolve issues fast.
Some say that problems are an opportunity to learn and grow. However, holding onto that positive philosophy can be hard to do when faced with a mounting heap of challenges. If you try to tackle all the issues you meet simultaneously, you will invariably make some bad decisions.
So, the first strategy to adopt is to tackle your problems one at a time. Here are ten more strategies to help you become a highly effective business problem-solver.
- Define the True Problem
Merely knowing that one of your most important customers is dissatisfied is not enough. You will also need to understand why they are unhappy, what caused their dissatisfaction, and how the immediate problem will be resolved. And you will need to decide what steps will need to be taken to ensure the same situation never arises again. It would be best, then, to clearly define what a problem is before you attempt to resolve the issue. Gather all the facts, analyze the figures if appropriate, and try to look at the problem you face from a detached, objective perspective.
- Summarize Problems
Once you have gathered all the relevant information about a problem, you will need to get to the crux of the issue at hand. The data you collect will help you understand the magnitude of the challenge and help you find a solution. However, too much data can be overwhelming. So, distill the problem you face into a summary and bullet-point what action is needed to rectify the issue.
- Decide if You Are looking at the Problem or a Symptom
Fixing a symptom will only provide a short-term fix if there is a more significant underlying issue. So, consider if the challenge you face is merely the result of a far deeper problem. Suppose the unhappy customer mentioned above was dissatisfied with one of your products, for example. If that were the case, a refund and an apology might placate the disgruntled customer. But, in due course, you will likely face further complaints from other customers about the same product if the root cause of the complaint is not fixed.
- Consider all The Ramifications
When faced with a problem, try to avoid making hasty decisions that could make the situation worse or lead to other issues. Faced with a shortage of cash, you might make the knee-jerk decision to withhold all payments to vendors, for example. But, while paying suppliers late will ease the immediate cash flow issue, it will probably cause further problems later. It is best to take your time resolving business problems whenever you can. Even the most pressing business challenges don’t usually need an instant solution.
- Break Down Problems
Some business issues are multifaceted and too big to handle all at once. The cash flow issue mentioned above, for example, might have been caused by a combination of overspending, poor credit management, and low sales. So, the challenge you face is not the lack of cash in the bank. It is the root cause of the cash crisis and the problems that a lack of liquid funds will cause that will need addressing. Breaking problems down into smaller parts makes it easier to find and implement a solution. It also has the psychological benefit of making a challenge seem less formidable.
- Keep Calm and Pace Yourself
Sometimes, the best way to resolve a problem is to give yourself time to think. It can help to put the issue to one side for a while or sleep on it. Probably the worst thing that you can do is panic and try to address the problem immediately. When you are feeling stressed, you can find yourself forced into making a wrong decision. So, give yourself a break and time to think, and a solution may come to you that had not initially been apparent.
- Enlist the Help of Experts
No business owner can solve all their business problems on their own. Sometimes, you will need the help of experts, like your accountant or your business lawyer. You might also find it helpful to discuss your business challenges with other people in your network. And don’t forget to talk to your team, too, because the people who work at the sharp end sometimes know things that their supervisors do not. Ultimately, the decision will be yours. Even so, getting input from others will often help you find the best solution.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box
The best solution to a problem may not always be the most obvious. So, don’t discount any ideas until you have thought them through. It can be helpful to consider all the solutions to a problem, however impracticable they at first may seem. You can then filter out the non-runners once you have weighed up all the options and potential outcomes.
- Trust Your Abilities
If you are running a successful business, you must have made the right decisions in the past. So, don’t allow one major problem to make you lose faith in your judgment. If you have gathered all the facts and considered all the options, it’s time to decide and act. Use your experience of dealing with past challenges to help you solve the current issue. One thing that is for sure is that problems don’t solve themselves!
- Implement and Monitor
Once you have decided on a course of action, you will need to plan and implement your solution. But problem-solving doesn’t end there. You will also need to ensure that your solution has the desired outcome. Monitor the progress of your problem-solving plan through to the end. And don’t be afraid to change course if you need to. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you didn’t get it right the first time and learning from your mistakes.
The first rule of problem-solving is don’t panic. Gather all the facts, consider all the options, and seek advice if needed. Of course, it is also advisable not to ignore business problems because they rarely go away if not tackled head-on. On a positive note, a challenge solved often leads to a strengthening of the business or business growth–so, perhaps, problems should be viewed as opportunities after all.