The quote of the week:
“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution” – Albert Einstein
Small Problems Still Need to Be Solved
This quote introduces the subject for this podcast which is solving small business problems. What is a problem? It’s a situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome. The biggest problem with small business owners is that they purchase a business and put their desk or office in the back with a computer that they’re using to play Solitaire. But when you walk in they’re always so busy and they start shuffling papers. What they do is ignore and insulate themselves from problems, so they put their underpaid staff out in front and hope that they will solve the problem.
It just doesn’t work. You can’t delegate a problem to someone without instructions, training or the resources to solve them. Or else they delay solving the problem and pretend like it doesn’t exist or it might go away on its own, which never happens. If they do have to acknowledge the issue they overreact and blame everyone else but themselves for creating it.
The good news about problems is that there are only big ones and small ones. That’s it. I’m going to share with you the four ways to solve small problems because these are 90% of what you deal with, but to be an effective small business owner, to be respected by your staff, to have clients and customers that rave about you, you need to be able to solve small problems. What you may view as small a client may view as large.
1. Empower Your Staff
The first way to solve small problems is to empower your staff to solve them. You accomplish this through your training, the guidelines you have established and most importantly giving them the resources to solve the problem. I don’t even want to see small problems. I don’t want them to be on my desk so I train my staff by giving them the guidelines and resources necessary to solve these problems.
I will use a small problem to train those who eventually want to lead or become a partner. I use these small problems as training grounds. I don’t just hand it to them and blindly walk away. I outline the problem with them. I interact with them and see how they would solve it. I make sure they have the right plan to solve it and I give them a timeline or a deadline. Most importantly, you need to meet with them and review the outcome. So when I do have a small problem I empower my staff and I use it as a training ground.
3. Be Available
Next, always let them know they have access to you if you’re a small business owner or a manager. There is the possibility that what you view as a small problem that can be solved easily may be more difficult for them. You can’t give them a task with no parachute. You have to give him or her a parachute and you have to let them know that they’re allowed to pull that cord and get help without criticism or reproof.
4. Don’t Let Problems Become Systemic
When possible you make necessary changes to keep the problems from becoming systemic. You don’t need small problems to keep occurring when you see a pattern. If you have your staff meetings and they share with you problems that happen over and over again, put together a plan to keep them from happening. Maybe it’s the way you’re rolling out a product or you’re not communicating a service clearly and you’re having a possibility of warranty issues or customer service issues with clients. There are countless small problems that can become systemic which is why you review them.
Recap: The Four Ways to Solve Small Problems
1. Empower my staff through training, guidelines, and the necessary resources to solve a problem from beginning to end so that they do not end up on my desk if possible.
2. Use small problems to train those who want to eventually lead and see how they would handle those positions as managers or partners. I outline the problem, I ask them how they’d solve it, I give them a timeline and then I meet and review the outcome with them.
3. Always give them a pull cord. When giving someone a small problem to solve they need to have access to you if needed.
4. Because I have staff meetings, I become aware of small problems that are becoming repetitive. I don’t want them to become systemic so we review these and we make necessary changes to keep the problems from becoming systemic.