We, as a company, have been speaking about solving problems for a while now. It’s become a core focus of the company and is part of our overarching philosophy on providing digital solutions. You may be asking what that means and how does one apply problem solving in a business context. We’ve answered that question many times and so I thought it would be a good idea to jot down some of our thoughts into a blog post. These thoughts really dive deep into why we do what we do and how we go out there to achieve it.
What does solving problems mean in business?
Before I try answer that, let’s quickly take a look at what a problem actually means:
A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.
So a business problem is something your business is facing that is either unwelcome or harmful that needs to be dealt with and overcome. In a business these problems could be something very clear like staff stealing, lack of leads or expenses that are going through the roof. However, under the surface, there could also be instances where problems are not as easy to spot and could be extremely damaging to any business. These could be inefficient systems/processes in place, a disjointed brand or unhappy staff. Solving problems like these are important for business to progress.
But my business doesn’t have any problems?
I’d like to challenge you here and say that if your business isn’t facing any problems then you’re not growing. Remember when you were growing up? As your body grew, certain parts struggled to keep up, so you went through growing pains. Now that you’re an adult and have stopped growing, the pains have gone. This is how a business is. The only difference is that a business should never stop growing.
Sure, if you’re content with your business and where it is at then it’s fine to stay where you are. If that’s the case, then this post isn’t for you. If you’re not happy with where your business is and see a vision much bigger for it then read on.
How does one find these problems?
This is often the hardest part of solving problems – finding out exactly what it is. If you’re the only person in the company, the best option would be to look at your day and find out what’s taking up your time. If you take the 80/20 principle, you really want to spend 80% of your time on what makes you money and 20% of your time on things that don’t (things like admin and accounting, unless that’s your business). If you find that you’re spending time on things that don’t make you money, you’re wasting a resource that you can never get back.
If you’re pretty good at managing your time then we would need to look at what we can scale to make you more profitable. Remember, you can’t increase the number of time you have (see how much that doesn’t make sense). You can only increase how much you can get done in a certain amount of time. Look at what you repeat and do often. Also look at what you really don’t like doing that you do often (that’s always a winner from a psychological factor).
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple people working for you, the number one place you can start is by speaking to them on an individual basis or in their respective teams. What do they spend their day doing (not micromanaging, but just an overall perspective), what do they dislike doing, what do they do over and over again and what stops them from doing their job really well. I’m pretty sure that if you have one employee that you’d get enough information to keep you busy for a while. If you have more, the list will exponentially grow as you add layers of management and communication issues and general relational problems.
Right, I see problems, how do I solve them?
I honestly don’t need to go deep into this. Have you ever heard the saying “How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece”. That’s how you go about solving problems in your business – one problem at a time. One problem might solve another, or make another problem the next priority, but if you try solve them all at once then you’ll get nowhere and have even more problems.
So, really, how do I solve them?
Once you’ve found problems, you need to start prioritising them. What could you do now that would give you some results? Once you’ve got a list, start from the top and look at ways to solve them. This is where we think technology comes to the rescue in most cases (not always, don’t be mistaken by that).
When you have a problem, you’re trying to see if you can implement a solution that will ease or remove it (validating that this solution will work) or won’t remove it (the proposed solution wouldn’t work). For that reason, you want to make the solution focussed and require less effort to implement so that you can get that feedback as early as possible.
Feedback is pivotable to making sound business decisions. You can get feedback in many ways; like customer feedback (emotion), big picture numbers (vanity) or high measurable objectives. We prefer putting a solution on the table and deciding what would make us consider that solution a success or not. We’re not talking about an objective like: we need to hit one million customers or I need to decrease costs. I’m talking about objectives like: we need to increase our lead conversions to 5% so that we can double our customers on a month-to-month basis or we need to increase the efficiency of our ten admin staff by 10% so we don’t have to hire another employee. That focus allows you to really see if what you did is getting you to that goal.
What should I do when I have those objectives?
When you have those objectives, you have most likely already pinpointed where in your business you’d like to place a solution. Once you have that, you’ll have a good idea about what you’re looking for. You can bring in a company that provides solutions (if you haven’t already – that could have been one of your solutions) or you can find software/tools that already provide a solution for what you’re trying to solve.
This is what we love so much about technology. It either provides a solution or gives you a solid foundation to build your own, which you can reliably measure against the objective you set out to achieve. Remember, you want to identify the problem, set out a clear objective in fixing it, implement a solution (with or without technology – we prefer with) and then measure to see if it worked or not.
I really hope this has helped you see how solving problems can grow your business. Don’t be scared to give something a go and if you are hesitant, start small and work your way up. If you have some business problem that you can’t pinpoint, don’t be shy to leave a comment below and maybe we can help you uncover what exactly it is, and what can be done to solve it.