Have you undertaken a business project only to encounter substantial roadblocks that literally stop you in your tracks? If so, welcome to entrepreneurship. If not, you haven’t been in business long enough; bookmark this article and give it time.
If you are scaling and iterating – inevitably – you will come across your fair share of business problems. Some business challenges are simple, others will make you cry foul play and test your level of sanity and patience in the process.
At times, business challenges can seem never-ending. The right problem can test the brightest and most committed of minds. Yet, I’ve learned that “every adversity … carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit” (Napoleon Hill).
Embrace the Process
Progress requires steadfast problem solving. In fact, successful entrepreneurs are highly adept at problem solving. Whether you have to tackle a bottleneck, process flaw, or brand new technology, here are five steps that will put you ahead of the game:
Double your estimate.
One of the best ways to deal with a never-ending business problem is to preclude it before it even starts. This begins with managing expectations – first and foremost, your own. In business, you’ll find that (almost) nothing takes as little time as you thought it would—especially if you are iterating and conquering new territory.
If you presume it will take two weeks, give it four. If you think you’ll need “X” budget, include a line item that provides a buffer for more. Everything has a learning curve; some steeper than others. So, before you begin a project, do your due diligence and tack on additional caveats and concessions to account for the unexpected. In fact, always expect the unexpected.
What do you do if your computer freezes or locks up? Naturally, you probably give it some time, press a series of buttons to end the task, or reboot. You could throw your laptop against a wall, but now you’ve compounded the problem. When a project “freezes” you can benefit from the same process. It’s perfectly okay to reboot.
When you are caught in the snares of a business challenge, with no end in sight – step back. For many of us, we’re inclined to power through problems. This approach has its advantages. However, if you keep hitting a wall it’s a sign that you need to step away. Stepping back for 24 hours will allow you to decompress and gain fresh new clarity and perspective. All the while, keeping your sanity in tact.
Employ the process of elimination.
No project should realistically begin without a level of due diligence, research and clear understanding of the task at hand. If you’ve taken time to prepare, you can better account for what works and what doesn’t – giving yourself the confidence to swiftly cut plans that don’t meet the desired goal.
As Albert Einstein once said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” When you’re knee deep in tough problems you can easily make a problem worse. Instead, take a scientific approach and employ the process of elimination.
This “will narrow and focus the research area. This will take into account budgetary restrictions, time, available technology and practicality, leading to the proposal of a few realistic hypotheses” (Explorable.com). Eventually, you will arrive at more sound conclusions. Focus lends itself to an informed answer.
Be relentlessly committed to the answer.
It is easy to be problem-focused. Instead, shift gears and become solution oriented. Often the problem isn’t the problem – it’s your approach to the problem.
When you focus on solutions, you give yourself the head space that is necessary for creativity. Start to ask, “What if?” and “Why not?” instead of thinking “Why me!” and “Poor me.” Einstein stuck with the problem longer than most. He owed his “genius” to this ideal – stickability.
Invest in a solution.
Often, you can make headway on a specific problem by yourself. However, you’ll find your way out of a maze a lot quicker with the resources and expertise of others.
Invest in a solution by aligning yourself with subject matter experts, get a fresh new pair of eyes, seek out online resources and forums for answers to your toughest question. It’s likely that you aren’t the first person in the world with your exact business challenge. Others have come out of it on the other side, so seek out their wisdom and don’t recreate the wheel.
Problems are opportunities for learning. You may not see a direct benefit from solving your business challenge today, however, in the long run you will find it proved useful in a variety of circumstances.
How long do you stick with problems before they wear you down? You aren’t the first entrepreneur to run into a business challenge, and you certainly aren’t the last. Take this five step approach to tackle your next business problem and enjoy the results!