Solving business problems, big and small, comes with the territory for entrepreneurs. However, some people deal with challenging decisions better than others. Here, successful business and real estate investor Mike Eisenga gives five strategies to help business owners become better problem-solvers.
While no one specific problem-solving strategy will work for all dilemmas, at least one of these five approaches can be applied to the most common business quandaries.
Extrapolate to the Extreme
Clarity can be brought to many problems by mentally visualizing the issue at possible extremes. This strategy is particularly well suited for questions involving equity and fairness. If one employee requests an exception to a rule or policy – for example, an additional 15 minutes during their lunch break – consider the result if all employees made the same request. Depending on the number of employees and the type of business, this may or may not be a reasonable solution. Still, the mental exercise will help the leader evaluate the worst-case scenario.
Trial and Error
Suppose the consequence of a negative result is not catastrophic, or an outcome would be incremental rather than all at once. In that case, trial and error is a time tested problem-solving strategy. Trying one possible solution to a problem until you can measure the results, then stop and try an alternative if the initial indications are that the answer will fail is a helpful strategy for many business problems.
For example, if a vendor proposes an alternative material to be used in a manufacturing process, an owner may choose to try it for a while to evaluate the outcome. If the outcome is lacking, the original, or another alternate, can be used.
Working with a goal in mind is an effective problem-solving strategy. If an owner knows what they want to achieve, the mental exercise of working backward, one step at a time, until they reach the current condition can be beneficial.
When Desmond Tutu wisely said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time,” he was illustrating the strategy of breaking a problem into a series of smaller tasks and then addressing them one by one.
Some business issues can seem overwhelming, with no possible solution in sight. In many cases, a closer examination will yield a view of the issue as a compilation of smaller, solvable problems. Effective business owners will often divide a large problem into smaller segments and make assignments to various departments to address each division.
For example, a lack of profitability can be broken into smaller questions of material costs, labor costs, assembly or manufacturing time, shipping expenses, and more. These smaller problems can then be delegated to the respective business departments responsible for that component. In the end, if most or all of the departments can improve on their piece of the larger problem, a solution can be reached.
Get Expert Help
Knowing the limits of their expertise is an attribute of a successful business owner. Asking for help is an indication of this attribute. No one can know everything, and resistance to finding an expert to help solve a business problem will often make the situation worse.
About Mike Eisenga
Mikel Eisenga is a successful commercial real estate investor with a banking and finance background and is the former mayor of the City of Columbus. As a President of both American Lending Solutions, a mortgage lending company (he founded and operated from 2000 to 2018), and First American Properties, he has a track record of creating and operating successful businesses. Mr. Eisenga is also devoted to property development and construction, primarily serving smaller local communities. Especially in the senior housing sector.