Problem Solving Made Easy

Every business has challenges, decisions to face and issues which can become problems.

What problem do you need to solve today? And how do you approach problem solving most efficiently? Time and m0ney are always a consideration.

I suggest you use the same approach you’d use in creating a plan for your business. Start by identifying your desired end result (your goals) and comparing that to what you’ve got n0w. The difference between the two is the “gap”.

The subsequent problem-solving steps fall into four sequential components as follows.

– Gather and organize pertinent facts
– Diagnose the causes
– Select resolution strategies
– Plan specific steps to reach your goals.

Let’s look at these four elements a bit closer. The first two-gathering and organizing facts and diagnosing the cause are based on the past, while the latter two – selecting resolution strategies and planning action steps are future oriented. You’ll be using historical data as a reference to strategize and plan for the future.

The most important step in the process is to write the problem clearly and set up the four sections on paper. If you prefer, you can create a template so you can save and use this model again. The model helps focus your thinking and automatically organizes your results.

OK, let’s go through the process using an example problem.

Identify the Problem

Our problem is we did not meet our $ales goals of $200,000 for the most recent quarter. $ales for the quarter were $150,000 (25% below our target). For the past 3 quarters $ales have been below our target.

Gather and Organize pertinent facts (past)

1. Advertising efforts did not produce desired results. We were seeking 300 responses per ad. Results were fairly consistent between the three newspapers but averaged less than 200 each. We have yet to meet our ad response goals.

2. For the second time in six months, we lost one of our three $ales people. We have not been able to replace her.

Diagnose Causes (past)

1. To date we’ve used our Administrative Assistant to write our ads and marketing materials. She has a marketing degree, but no experience in marketing or $ales. A more dedicated and professional approach to our marketing efforts is likely to be rewarded. Investigation into the cost to hire a freelance marketing and advertising person revealed we should be able to more than cover the additional expense through increased $ales.

2. Our first observation about the two $ales people who had left was that they had both covered the same territory. The other two territories were for local or regionally located prospects. The territory where the two former $ales people had been assigned was mostly too far for a face-to-face meeting (profit margin in the product does not allow for overnight travel expenses). $ales in this territory were completed by ph0ne, fax and e-mail. The two people hired for this territory had previously been outside $ales people and this job was primarily an inside $ales job, more appropriate for a telemarketer.

Create Strategy (future)

1. Try the services of a freelance marketing and advertising person for six months (two quarters). Receive proposals from at least three freelancers whose references are satisfactory.

2. Rewrite the job description for the third $ales person as an inside $ales and telemarketing position. Recruit accordingly.

Create Plan to meet goals (future)

1. Hire a freelance marketer. Target hire date: May 1st. Assess results after three and six months.

A. Write a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the freelance marketer.
B. CEO and Operations Manager will seek referrals for freelance marketers from customers, suppliers, association members, etc.
C. Set target date for return and send RFP to prospective freelancers.

2. Hire inside $ales person for non-local territory. Target hire date: April 15th. Assess results at three months and again at six months.

A. Speak with two outside $ales people to obtain tips on converting outside $ales to inside $ales.
B. Rewrite job description for inside $ales position.
C. Recruit and hire an experienced inside $ales person or telemarketer.

Hopefully, this example has helped you to understand the process. As you can see, we’ve gone from identifying the problem to creating a resolution plan in four logical, sequential steps.

Take action on your plan. Set an evaluation date so you can determine how effective your strategy and actions have been. Make any adjustments as needed and update your strategy and plan. Stay focused on your desired results until reached.

Assignment:

Apply this technique to your most urgent business problem right n0w. Use these 4 simple basic action steps to help you stay in command of your business. Practice using this technique and you’ll be able to evaluate and resolve any problem easily.