Tips for problem solving as a business owner
Problem solving is an important part of running a successful business, yet you can’t take classes on problem solving or, really, even teach another person how to do it. It’s something that you get better at in the process of having to do it over and over again. However, while become a good problem solver means learning through doing, there are also tips that can help you get better at it.
Identify the issue
This may seem obvious, but don’t be too hasty to assume. A very common situation is one in which you are looking at a symptom of the problem but not the problem itself. For example, perhaps you have an employee who is not being as productive as you would like. Before deciding that you need a better employee, take a look at other factors. Assume that this person is the expert on why they are not performing to the degree that you think they are capable and ask them what the issue is.
Does the employee have the tools needed to do the job? Do they need a schedule that is shifted slightly? Perhaps you have underestimated the actual amount of work involved, and they need an assistant. Or, perhaps you’ll look at all the factors and decide that this person is not the right fit for the job, but it’s important to be certain that this is in fact the issue.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
One of the biggest mistakes that novice problem-solvers make is assuming that they are the only person who has had the issue and that therefore they will have to come up with an entirely new solution to it. The vast majority of the time, other people have faced the same issue and have come up with an array of ways to respond to it. You might review those ways and then decide that you need to come up with a new, original way to address the problem, but at least you have taken a look at what others have done before you.
If your business has a fleet, you might be struggling with some management issues, including trying to reduce fuel costs. Having your drivers track their mileage and spending isn’t helping, so what should you do next? You could review a guide on fuel management systems that explains how these systems can save you money and make you more efficient.
Identify success metrics
Another important element of problem solving in a business setting is having a way to know that you have succeeded or at least that you are improving. Your metrics for success must be concrete things that you can measure. For example, for the employee you feel is not working productively, your measure of success cannot simply be that they are doing better. Instead, think about what specifically would indicate to you that their productivity has increased. If you want to save on fuel costs, how much do you want to save? Give yourself a time period in which you anticipate seeing this type of improvement.