As you build a startup, you will discover that projects rarely go off without a hitch. Problems can occur before a project even begins, and most certainly will occur during or after everything is seemingly finished. This is why the best and most successful entrepreneurs are diligent problem solvers.
A guy who used to share our workshop space would always preach about the concept of— problem, reaction, and solution. He deemed it a quintessential life lesson…a motto to work by. In truth, it never meant much to us until our workload increased.
As the workload became bigger and more ambitious, these three words have become an indispensable part of my work life. Learning to embrace them, and work through them, is a challenge every entrepreneur will face. Here’s a look at how we approach this principle.
Problems usually fit into two categories; little issues and screw-ups. Little issues are just that – problems that are easy to solve. This is the preferable type of problem to encounter as you build your business. You can fix them before they reach a client or before you deliver a finished product. Little issues could be adding a couple of packers on-site to make something sit more level or changing a spelling mistake in a line of code. It is usually nothing more than a minor concern.
Screw-ups, however, are problems that are not so easy to fix. They are usually encountered at the most inconvenient of times or places. This could be in front of a client, caused by a client, issues discovered on-site or after launch. These are problems that make or break customer relationships. Once screw-ups make their entrance, the true skill lies in how we react to them.
Reactions fit into two categories; composed, and absolute panic. Composed reactions will lead to sensible, appropriate solutions. This will, in turn, lead to a successful conclusion of the project.
It is always valuable to take a step back from a problem. Refrain from diving straight in, regardless of the transcendent light bulb idea that just sprung to mind. Breath, stay calm, and if the client is in the vicinity, it is time to practice your “customer face.” The one where you are calm, composed and exude leadership qualities that put everyone at ease.
Unfortunately, sometimes a problem can cause absolute panic. Panic will blur your thinking process, and lead to solutions that are rushed, messy, or just plain crap. All out panic can also cause friction between colleagues, or with your client. Staying calm will always yield the best chance for the best solution.
Solutions fit into two categories; the best, and the worst. Provided you have met your problem with a cool head, and taken a few moments to consider all the available options, your solution will more likely be the best that is possible–one that satisfies the client and ensures you will get paid.
“Great leaders do not guess. They identify the core of the problem, forecast scenarios, and produce backup plans before formulating and sharing with stakeholders,” Hamid SafaeiThis creates the trust and commitment necessary for implementation. They assess actions and adjust whenever necessary.”
If your problem was met with all-out panic, the solution you come to is likely to be the worst available. These solutions might be rushed, messy, or just plain crap. These types of solutions can actually lead to even more problems, and you create a vicious cycle of “fixing your fixes.”
Navigating the ‘problem, reaction, solution’ cycle
Entrepreneurship is not without its fair share of problems, large and small. Successful entrepreneurs prepare themselves to meet these challenges head-on. To expand on this business lesson a little further, take this approach: Big problem, calm reaction, and best solution. Putting this principle into practice will go a long way to helping your startup progress and prosper.
Stephen Moore is the co-founder of Roots Furniture, a bespoke furniture and interior fittings company in Scotland. The journey has been a huge learning curve, and Stephen has become passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience with others.