Ida, my Prussian grandmother, loved talking with friends and family.
Once, after listening to a friend’s woes, she said, “Oh, it’s only a money problem!”
Her friend sat stunned for a minute and asked, “What do you mean?”
“Well, there are health and money problems. A health problem only God can help with. A money problem is fixable by humans.”
Knowing what’s wrong
We often forget that problems we can solve are a challenge, but not insurmountable.
Let’s start by looking at a list of common business problems / challenges:
- Not enough clients. Are you sitting around waiting for the phone to ring?
- Not enough money. How is your cash flow? Are you having trouble paying your bills on time?
- Not enough time. When was the last time you took weekends (or evenings) off? How about a vacation? How about a good night’s sleep?
- Staffing. Are your spending more time dealing with your employees than working on your business? Are you wishing that you could clone yourself?
- Competition. Are there more businesses fighting for your customers?
What’s interesting about all of these problems is, they’re really just symptoms. And if you spend your time trying to fix the symptom rather than fix what’s actually wrong, the result will only be temporary.
So what are some of the underlying problems?
- Lack of Planning. Many businesses start serendipitously. You create a product or service for your own needs. Someone notices it and wants to buy it. You sell it. They tell their friends. You sell more. You’re in business! Gradually, you notice you’re selling less. What happened? Do you need to advertise more? Reduce your price? Strategic (focusing on vision) and business (focusing on action) plans are necessary to help you identify goals and achieve them.
- Not Knowing Yourself. What core values underlie your business? This is the “soul” of your business and attracts the right clients to you. These qualities inform all your actions; including your message and your image.
- Not Knowing Your Clients. Who are your potential clients? How easily can you find them? Clearly define your niche: New mothers who love yoga; children who like classic movies; recently divorced men. The narrower your niche, the easier it is to find customers, and the easier it is to create a message tailored just for them. If you have multiple niches, you’ll need different messages for each group.
- Wrong Message. Your clients don’t (initially) care about you and your products. They care about their problems. Solve their problem, and you have a potential client. Have them trust your solution (and price the solution’s value well), and you have a new client.
- Single Income Stream. Are you stuck working by the hour? If you’re not working, you’re not earning any money; taking a vacation becomes a dollars-and-cents trade-off, not a quality of life issue. If so, then you don’t have a business-you have a job. A business can make you money while you’re asleep. Likewise, if you business is cyclical (for example, gardeners in spring and summer), you need other services or products for the “off-times”.
- Working on the Wrong Things. What are you good at? What do you like to do? Whenever possible, focus on your likes and delegate everything else. Doing too much of the things you don’t like is a sure-fire path to early burnout. You need to understand all the parts of your business, but you don’t have to be an expert at all of them (or be the one to do them) .
- Not Measuring Your Actions. How can you tell if you’re spending your time or money effectively? By constantly measuring your results to find out if you’ve been getting a good return on your investment (ROI).
Fixing what’s wrong
Once you’ve identified the underlying problem, how to do you solve it? The good news is, you’re not expected to know how to solve everything in your business. But you are expected to come up with a plan, implement it and measure its results (repeat as necessary).
You’re the expert in what you’re offering. So unless you want to be an expert in the “other stuff,” it’s best to get some help. If you’ve done your research (books, magazines, peers, experts) and you’re still stuck, it’s time to put on your creative thinking cap:
- Detail The Problem. How long have you had it? What have you tried? What worked? What’s the benefit of solving the problem? What’s the underlying reason for solving the problem (money to payoff debt? Lifestyle change?) Do you really want to solve the problem (or is there an emotional block)?
- Imagine Your Problem Solved. What would you have: more money, less effort, higher quality, better clients, more time for other things? Is this future truly compelling? If not, odds are you won’t successfully solve the problem .
- Palpate. Gently explore the problem and see what’s true. Find your blind spots. Have someone interview you about the problem and start offering quick suggestions. How would someone in another field solve it? A child? What would you do to prevent the opposite of the problem from happening (for example: If I had too many clients, I would: be surly, wouldn’t answer the phone, do a bad job, etc.). Are your assumptions really true? Have you seen anyone else solve it? Who do you admire, and how would they solve it? Will the problem go away if left alone?
- Evaluate. Generating solutions to problems is easy. Doing something about them is harder. Make sure to implement solutions that have measurable results. Learn from your mistakes.
- Get Support. Making change requires new routines. It’s easy to slip into familiar patterns.
Be thankful that you “only have a money problem.”