As your startup grows the business challenges (i.e., the fires) you face will grow two-fold.
Your daily to-do list can be determined by the newest fire, the fastest growing one, or the blazing fire you simply can’t seem to put out. This is make or break time – are you simple putting out fires or are you going to get focused and grow your business?
The good news is that every challenge you face is another way to learn. But, the way you solve it can also have a long-term impact on your business (no pressure). There’s a very important question you need to ask yourself before you jump into firefighting mode:
What is the actual problem I’m trying to solve?
Stop, Drop and Problem Solve
This sounds simple, however sometimes you may be moving so quickly that you’re at risk of making changes for the sake of change. Remembering to stop and truly identify the underlying issue will enable you to stay focused and create a powerful solution that will last.
Here’s an example, and it’s one that you may have already faced: Let’s say you’re receiving complaints about customer service, especially when a customer is upset about their ordering experience. This frustrates you to no end because you built this business by always taking care of the customer and making sure they had a smile on their face—no matter what.
The correct firefighting solution is this: Identify specific customer service reps who are tied to the issues and provide refresher customer service training on how to handle complaints.
The powerful, lasting solution comes next. Once you look back at how you handled customer complaints you realize that you spent your entire day interacting with customers and never “bottled” your approach.
After reviewing your customer service training materials, you recognize they walk employees through handling a complaint in a generic manner. There is none of your passion and commitment to taking care of the customer regardless of what the issue such as listening, not being defensive and most importantly, not taking it personally.
So, now what?
You can now create new, simple training methods that begin with your company’s customer service mantra: Listen. Empathize. Do Whatever It Takes To Make It Right. You have everyone in the company take part in this training, including you, so your staff knows that it starts at the top. This mantra then becomes an integral part of every employee’s onboarding, regardless of their role.
Putting Out Business Fires, Permanently
This question, “What is the actual problem we are trying to solve?,” can be asked for nearly any business challenge you face and it can be modified based for the matter at hand. Beyond solving problems, it can also help you frame areas for growth. In some cases you’ll need to ask yourself, “What is the true opportunity ahead of me?” It will make you think big . . . maybe even bigger.
The key when going through this exercise is to peel back the layers and look beyond the surface. Don’t be fooled, this is definitely not the easy solution. It’s the one that budding entrepreneurs follow if they want to evolve from volunteer firefighter to a great business leader.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Kamran Farid is the co-founder and former Chief Operating Officer of Edible Arrangements® International, the creators of fresh fruit bouquets and fruit hand dipped in gourmet chocolate. Over fifteen years he was instrumental in growing the brand from one store in East Haven, Connecticut to over 1,300 stores in 14 countries and counting. Farid has a depth of expertise in building a brand from infancy into a global powerhouse. His newest venture, Kamran Capital Group, aims to help small businesses grow smarter. Connect with @kamranf on Twitter.
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