These days we’re not supposed to call them “problems.” Now they’re “challenges.” But no matter what you call them, every day we entrepreneurs seem to face a new one, from putting out small fires to tackling ongoing threats to our business. All problems have this in common: They must be solved and generally with some urgency!
How do you approach a problem? What is the best way to discover the solution? By knowing what questions to ask you are more likely to find an elegant solution – one that simplifies the situation and benefits all parties. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have most of the questions.
- Define It. What is the problem anyway? Not just what it appears to be, but why it exists, and what is the outcome you want? We’ve found that many times the solution is the best definition of the problem. Open it up for others to define the problem. You may be surprised at how different people perceive the same problem. These different perceptions can give you some helpful insight leading to a solution.
- Look it from All Angles. How does the problem look from a timing standpoint? Will it go away on its own? How does it look from the customer’s stand point? What about your distributer, or your supplier? Compare and contrast this problem with other problems. We actually solved several problems by realizing they were merely symptoms of a larger problem, which when corrected, solved the symptoms.
- Take Inventory. List your assets. What leverage do you have? What things can change and what cannot? How much time is required to fix the problem? Is there a temporary fix? Who are the people, places and things involved? What kind of a budget is available? How many people can you put on the problem? What does the ideal solution do? Does it or can it solve other problems? Is it a tangible solution like a sign, package or price, or is it a process that requires a checklist, signoff sheet, job description, or clause in a contract?
- Get Above It All. Straight up is the fastest way out of the box and may be the fastest way to the solution. If you get up high enough, you begin to see the relationships involved in the problem. And you begin to see how others solved similar problems in other spaces. You can borrow and apply parts of their fixes. By taking the 10,000-foot view, you can see other parts of the problem you may have missed and other resources you may have overlooked.
- Who Wins? Does the problem hurt more than just your company? What other people benefit when you solve the problem? They also have a vested interest, so bring them on as strategic partners to solve your collective problem. We often brought market problems up with to our suppliers and vendors who were more likely to make allowances, enabling us to continue and even increase buying their products and services.
- Let It Simmer! Don’t panic and rush to the first solution that presents itself. The hasty solution may cause even more problems down the line. Take some time after you have completed the 5 steps above to just chill. Then when you least expect it, Bang! All the pieces fall together! The elegant solution presents itself. We usually say, “Wow! That’s so simple, why didn’t we see that before?” It was because we were too anxious to let our minds crunch the data and spit out the answer.
Of course, believing there is a solution will open your eyes to seeing it!
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.