August 9, 2011

Problem Solving: How It Can Strengthen Your Small Business

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Problem Solving - Contemplating

“There are no problems, only opportunities!!”- This is a popular saying that even people in the corporate or business world rely on. However, needless to say, problems do occur in any type of business (whether you are only on the infancy stage of creating a startup company or you have been around for quite some time managing your business). There is no existing business today that has not experience its fair share of problems. As an entrepreneur, you need to have the appropriate problem-solving skills to effectively overcome every business dilemma that you will and might encounter. Problem solving can help you strengthen your small business!! The question is- how?

Too often than not, many small-scale business owners concentrate so much on problems that they fail to devise a plan to tackle them. Problem-solving is a skill that entrepreneurs need to learn quickly (and learn it well!!!). Entrepreneurs who don’t have the problem-solving skills will be caught in the web of their problems and will not notice the opportunities in front of them. When you center all your attention on problems and when you converge all efforts to determine what is wrong, you will only see your problems and not the solutions. With this, you will definitely neglect the opportunities for success. Remember, engaging in business is not only all about closing sales and establishing your brand. It is a continuous journey full of predicaments and setbacks. And you need to prepare for it.

Problem Solving: Why Learn This Skill?

Problem Solving Decisions

One fact in business is certain: business owners or entrepreneurs will encounter challenges that will require their problem solving skills. There are some entrepreneurs who are good at solving their business problems while others rely on their IQs and academic backgrounds to help them. Yet, many say that problem solving is not just a birthright, but a trait that can be learned.

The difficulty in solving or even determining the key elements of a problem is you have the tendency to deal with multiple and diverse constraints. Each of these constraints will likely just steer you to a wrong direction (worse direction: failure to solve the problem) or disguise the real causes of the crisis. In addition, there are times when you tend to think and act quickly presupposing that through this you can easily and promptly solve your problem. But, you end up with no solution at all (“Haste makes waste”).

With proper problem solving skills and processes, you can turn any problem into an opportunity and not into disappointment. Solving your business issues (whether in or out of your workplace) can help increase and maintain productivity. Entrepreneurs who are great problem solvers within any type of business are best prepared to answer all their customers’ needs effectively, as well. Remember, a business is built on the problems (needs and wants) of customers. Without these customer problems, you will have no business at all.

For those entrepreneurs who employ all the fundamentals of problem solving, they will be best equipped to overcome and outlast any type of business problem. Solving your problems should not be done in a rush. You always will have the luxury of taking the appropriate time to analyze and investigate all your business troubles with the proper skills of problem solving. With the appropriate problem solving skills and process, you will be able to achieve long-term results and avoid certain business problems from ever happening again.

Necessary Skills for Problem Solving

Increase Critical Thinking Skills

Actually, the basics to business problem solving are coherent with the problem solving process in every area of your life. Yet, not all people naturally possess the optimum skill set for problem solving. The necessary business problem solving skills can be attained and learned.

Here are some of the essential attributes needed for problem solving in business.

Analytical. This is the ability to dissect and explore an issue creating troubles in your small business. Having this skill can help you to identify the cause and effect of multiple and interrelated domains of your business contributory to your business dilemma. This skill involves being able to decipher between relevant from irrelevant information and reliable from fickle data. It will take practice to hone or develop this skill in problem solving.

Open-mindedness. It is important that you are opening in entertaining and welcoming ideas not only from yourself, but also from other people. There are some entrepreneurs who think they are open-minded, but their words and actions when faced with a problem indicate otherwise. If you act and believe that “you already know”, you will be hindered to determine the solutions to your problem.

Inquisitive. Asking questions is one way of getting to the bottom of any business problem. Ask questions until you arrive to a rational conclusion. It is only at that point when you can resolve the problem and determine ways to increase performance. When you get to the root of the problem, you must take the necessary corrections in order to prevent the occurrence of new and multiple issues.

Patience. Facing and solving small business problems can take a lot of time. It needs you to be patient since you will be talking to a variety of people (inside or outside your business), sitting through a lot of paperwork, sending correspondence to people connected to your business and directly causing your problem, etc. The reward of patience will be achieved when you stay focused and when you wait. You must have all the pertinent information to help you uncover the root cause of your business problem and implement the appropriate course of action.

Having these skills will help you in your process of solving your business issues. Putting these skills into action and utilizing them into your problem solving formula will produce results.

Successful Steps to Problem Solving

Thinking outside the box

Possessing the skills isn’t enough to effectively solve your business problems. You need to have a formula. Well, you can always formulate your own. But following proven-effective steps in problem solving can be helpful.

  1. Spend time to clearly define the problem. Instead of jumping into finding the solution(s) to the problem, you must first understand the issue at hand. It is important that you do this since small issues can turn into big predicaments when dealt with inappropriate actions.
  2. Determine if the issue is a problem or an opportunity. There are some business opportunities that are camouflaged as problems. You need to determine which is which.
  3. Look at the problem on different angles. Business problems can be defined in many ways than one. Because of this, you need to view the issue at different angles. You will definitely be able to explore and find the best solution.
  4. Inquire about the cause of the problem. Targeting the root of the problem will likely lead you to resolve it in no time. Instead of treating the symptoms, you have to address the core cause of the issue. If not, the business problem will likely recur, perhaps with different and more symptoms.
  5. Determine multiple potential solutions. The more possible solutions you have, the more you will likely come up with the best and right solution. In problem solving, the proportion of the quality of the solution is directly related to the quantity of the solutions.
  6. Prioritize possible solutions. Give primary consideration to those solutions that are acceptable and doable than those that are more complex, costly, and longer in time frame.
  7. Decide. You need to choose the appropriate solution and settle on a course of action. At the very least, you must set a deadline for making a decision and sticking with it.
  8. Delegate responsibilities. Many entrepreneurs think that it is up to them to carry out the solution(s) on the problem. But the responsibilities to solve the problem should be delegated to your employees. Solving business problems is not only the duty of owner or manager, but it is a concerted effort of the whole company.
  9. Gauge the solution. You need to set a measure for the solution. If not, you will not be able to know when and whether the problem was solved.

The ability to solve your business problems will bring you success. Problem solving process can be accelerated based on the severity of your situation as long as you follow the steps mentioned. As the owner or manager of your small-scale business, you must “wear several hats” during problem solving. You should never stop to investigate new ideas in all areas of your business (at the same time you can explore and discover problem areas). In order to stay profitable in the competitive business world, you should continuously gather information that will assist you to make necessary changes within and outside your business.

The fundamentals of business problem solving will enable you to worry less and focus more on solutions. Business problem solving will allow you to find opportunities in your problems. With problem solving, you will worry less, focus more on solutions, and eventually strengthen your business!!

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Jeremy Oms

Jeremy is an entrepreneur and leading manager of New Blood, Inc. Excited about all things Internet related, Jeremy spends much of his time project managing custom web applications and directing advanced search engine optimization efforts.

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