The road to success, just like life, is paved with obstacles and difficulties. All truly successful entrepreneurs had just as many problems as successes. Many of the entrepreneurs I talk to say it sometimes seems like they spend more time coming up with workarounds and repairing damage than growing their business. Even as companies grow, leaders are often prized for their grace under pressure. This is because the pressure doesn’t stop, even if you have a product that is making your company millions of dollars a month.
If you’re a business owner, it’s important to learn to solve problems, whether you’re a one-person operation or you have a large team. Scott Gatz, CEO of LGBTQ publisher Q.Digital, says problem solving can be daunting because entrepreneurs often don’t have the experience to know what to do when difficulties occur.
“The most important thing is to not let that paralyze you. There is always a way and there is almost never a perfect ‘right’ answer. Knowing that frees you to ask ‘dumb questions’ and come up with ‘crazy ideas.’ Inevitably one of those ideas might turn out to be the ‘right’ one after all.”
By looking at the techniques of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders can learn to better tackle their own challenges. Here’s some of the key skills that can help you solve problems effectively.
Professionalism at All Times
The best leaders never lose their cool, even when it seems as though there is every reason to panic. This is especially important once you begin to build a team. Your employees will look to you to set the example. When you’re calm, they’ll tend to remain calm, as well. Most importantly, by remaining professional no matter what happens, you’ll earn everyone’s respect, from your clients to your valued team members.
A successful entrepreneur always keeps an eye on the big picture, running everything through the filter of how it will help achieve the business’s mission. It can be too easy to get caught up in the small things that come up each day, not thinking beyond the current crisis. It’s important for entrepreneurs to address issues and move on, instead of obsessing over the small things, says Scott Swanson, CEO of mobile marketing company Aki Technologies.
“With so little time, an entrepreneur must focus efforts on solving the 20% of issues that cause 80% of the problems and let the rest go. You cannot solve all the problems. There isn’t enough time.”
If you are stressing about the issue of the day, consider how it will impact your business long term. You may decide to adjust your approach to problems so that it furthers the future success of your business, rather than merely putting out fires and thinking short term.
When a problem first emerges, it’s easy to get caught up in the blame game. You could waste hours trying to identify the team member who made an error that led to your current problem. However, your time will be much more productively spent working with your team to find a solution. Instead of berating your staff and delivering a blow to morale, going into problem-solving mode can make your workers feel as though they helped repair the damage, which will increase employee engagement.
Technology has given businesses the power to generate volumes of data on almost every aspect of their organization. It’s been particularly valuable as a way to identify customer behavior. Today’s effective problem solving means being able to gather as many facts as possible and putting those facts to use in coming up with a solution. Leaders who merely make guesses won’t rise above the competition, since other organizations will use data-based troubleshooting methods.
Dwelling on the negative will only bring down morale. Instead, be the type of leader who sees problems as “opportunities” and focus on the positive aspects of working through the issue. If you have a staff, bring groups of people in for a brainstorming session. An effective leader doesn’t just work through problems alone. If you see it as an opportunity to open the lines of communication and make your team a part of the solution, you’ll likely find that your entire business benefits as a result.
The best way to grow as a leader is to pay close attention to what results from any decisions that are made. This helps you move forward, equipped with the information you need to run your business in the future. When you know the cause of the problem and what resolved it, you’ll also be better able to come up with ways to prevent it repeating in the future.
Leadership means dealing with the day-to-day operations of a business, as well as working toward growing and adding new income. When you can gracefully deal with the challenges you face along the way, you’ll be more likely to boost your team morale, which usually translates into happier clients, and more revenue.