When you have a small business to take care of, you’ll need to be able to plan for unexpected issues. Unfortunately, no one is able to tell the future, so it’s wise to have a variety of contingency plans in place to help you make it through even when times are tough.
Something that will help you hugely when it comes to preparing for any eventuality is being excellent at problem-solving. When you can do this, you’ll be able to find a way through any issue, even if you hadn’t prepared for it in advance because it hadn’t been something you were concerned about. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to ensure you are an amazing problem solver when it comes to your business (and even life in general). Read on for some more information on exactly that.
What Is Problem Solving In Business?
Before we can look at how problem-solving in business can be done, it’s crucial to understand exactly what it is. You won’t be able to plan ahead and ensure you have the necessary skills otherwise.
Essentially, when you start a business, you’ll need to create a business plan. This business plan is a roadmap to your ultimate goals and will help you to navigate the difficult decisions that have to be made throughout your journey to success. However, even with a business plan, there will be additional obstacles in your way that will prevent or slow your progress. These obstacles are the ones that require problem-solving to get past.
So that you can solve these problems, you need to know just how to solve a problem, what strategies to put in place, and how to ensure you continue to strive towards your goals.
Why Is Problem Solving Important For Your Business?
When you can problem solve – and ideally when your team can do the same, if you have one – then it will barely matter what obstacles you come across because you’ll be able to use your skills to get past them. Whether they were something you thought of in advance and put a contingency plan in place for, or they were something you had never imagined would happen, if you are able to problem-solve, you’ll come to the same positive outcome.
Problem-solving is also a way to show that you are an expert in your field and in business in general. When you can do this, your confidence will grow, and you will be able to lead a team. So just how can you be better at solving problems? Read on to find out.
Define The Problem
When you find a problem has arisen, the first thing that most people will do is move straight to finding a solution. However, unless you look more deeply into the problem itself and why it has happened in the first place, any solution you come up with might not be the ideal one. You might just be making the problem smaller but not solving it at all. In some cases, without proper investigation, you might even be making the issue a much more difficult one to put right.
An example would be if you noticed your new customers weren’t buying as much as they once were. Someone who was not able to really problem-solve well might just assume that a new marketing campaign was in order. However, it might be that your advertising is working, but that something else is causing a drop of sales, such as some bad online reviews or a poor quality product.
Make sure you define the problem before coming up with a solution, and you’ll save time, money, and effort, and the outcome will be a much more positive one.
Conduct A SWOT Analysis
If you want your business to be a successful one, you’ll need to solve your customers’ problems. No matter what products you sell or services you perform, the reason people buy from you is that they have an issue, and you have the answer. Take this idea and use it within your own business if there is a problem. It might be that your problem is actually an opportunity to make your business even better than it was before. To know whether this is the case, conduct a SWOT analysis.
SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Look at your problem with these ideas in mind so see how you can turn a negative into a positive. Once you do that, a solution to the issue might be easier to find since you’ll know how you want to do things and what direction you’ll need to move in. By analyzing the threats and opportunities, in particular, you can work out how to improve your business on the back of something that, if taken in the wrong way, could cause chaos and disruption.
Use Design Thinking For Multiple Solutions
Using design thinking to solve problems is a great idea and certainly, a tool that any business owner will want in their arsenal. One of the best things about design thinking is that it’s not just down to you to come up with a solution on your own; it involves a range of different people who will have a variety of ideas and perspectives and who, when those ideas and perspectives are combined together, can create a solution that one person alone, no matter how talented and experienced they might be, could do. You’ll find that design thinking will more than likely bring up a number of different solutions, at which point you can use a SWOT analysis to determine the best ones.
In other words, design thinking is all about taking the issue and breaking it down into different parts, ensuring that the overall solution is helpful to the customer and the business simultaneously. It entails taking every different skill present within your team and looking at the problem from the perspective of each of those skills.
Conduct Market Research
It’s not a good idea to assume that market research is something that business owners only have to do once and then can forget all about. Customers’ needs will evolve over time, just as your business will, and unless you continue to find out what it is your customers want from you, at some point, you’ll find you are out of step with their needs, and you’ll be seen as old-fashioned or irrelevant. When this happens, you’ll have some big issues to deal with, not least of which is that your customers will stop spending their money with you and start spending it with your rivals who have kept up to date with the way the market is working.
Therefore, conducting regular market research and, crucially, making changes in plenty of time once you realize that changes are necessary is going to help you solve a huge variety of problems. The very worst thing that any business owner can do is to find there is a problem and fail to look into their customers and their competition.
Ask For Team Feedback
You’ll have many assets within your business and outside of it to ensure that you are able to problem-solve much more easily. This is why it’s always best to seek advice and feedback from those assets – namely your employees and any mentors, partners, or other knowledgeable figures. Why try to do everything alone when, as we’ve already discussed when it comes to design thinking, a collaborative approach is by far the best option? Some business owners might think that dealing with problems themselves is the sensible thing to do because it’s their business, and they’re the ones who need to come up with ways to make it better, but this is a mistake. It’s far better to ask for feedback on ideas and current systems – particularly if you know or even think there is an issue within them – and see what answers you get.
Once you receive the feedback, you can determine what your next steps could be. It might be that you decide to go back to school to learn more, such as you would with a masters in public policy. This kind of degree will help anyone understand the problem-solving process much more and enable you to get a clearer view of how to manage your problems. Or perhaps the feedback you receive will show you’re going about things the right way, but you need more confidence to push your ideas. Or perhaps you’ll get an idea of what to do because, by listening to feedback, you put yourself in the place of a customer or employee and get a new perspective on things. Whatever the case, if you’re ever unsure about what step to take, whether it’s a big one or a small one, asking for feedback is always a good idea.
Model Different Financial Scenarios
When you think about it, most of the problems that a business will suffer from revolving around money. You’ll either not be making enough money, the cash flow you do have fluctuates, or you rely too much on just one customer, for example. There are many other issues, too; even making too much money and then not knowing how best to use it can be a problem that needs to be solved, albeit a good one to have.
So when you have a business problem that needs solving, it’s a good idea to come up with different financial forecasts for the various solutions you can come up with. If you’re not sure what direction to take things in or you don’t know which idea is the best one, then the financial outcome is sure to help you. What solution is going to provide you with the most profit or the highest number of new customers or the best investment for your income? Knowing this because you have modeled different financial scenarios instantly makes coming up with the correct solution an easy – relatively speaking at least – thing to do.
Plus, this way of problem-solving will help you not to make big financial mistakes. In some cases, there might be an excellent solution – or so it seems – but the eventual outcome would be a financial disaster for your business. If you know in advance which scenarios will be problematic in the future, even if they are seemingly ideal ones now because you have run all the different ideas, you’ll find that making the right choice and solving the problem, not just but in the long-term is much more straightforward.
Watch Your Cash Flow
As we’ve said, almost every problem that will come to you in your business is something to do with money, which is why it’s crucial to pay attention to what’s happening regarding your cash flow. If you can see in advance when there is a shortfall (and ideally well before that shortfall occurs), you can put strategies in place to deal with it. At the very least, you can put a good timeline in place and make sure that, should you need to borrow money, for example, you do so before the situation becomes a dire one.
This might not seem like problem-solving as such, but it is. You’re looking at a potential issue and making sure you do something about it before it becomes something much bigger and more difficult to deal with. By watching your cash flow, you can ensure that you don’t run the risk of failing due to lack of money, which is a very real threat that all business owners have to think carefully about.
Make Sure You Test And Measure
It’s good to have ideas about how to improve your business, and it’s good to know how to deal with problems as and when (and ideally before) they arise. Yet, none of this is going to be overly helpful if you don’t know that you have a problem or that you have solved one.
This is why testing and measuring what you’re doing is crucial. When you do this, you’ll be able to spot issues before they arise, or at least before they cause too much trouble, and you’ll know that the issue has been dealt with. Alternatively, you’ll know that your methods are not working, and you can change tactics before it’s too late.