I have been in business for most of my adult life. Since I was a child I have watched my brothers and my parents start businesses, and lose and win in business. I watched my parents build a corporation from nothing, only to be duped by a lousy business partner. I also watched as they, having every reason in the world to quit, never gave up. They were buried in debt; friends, family and business advisors would say to them, “It’s over, there’s no other option but bankruptcy,” and I watched them give the finger and say, “F You,” suck it up and keep going. Eventually, they turned their small winery into one of the most popular wineries in Israel that sold to an investor for a few million dollars in its fifteenth year of operation.
I learned from my own experience as well. As I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and business, I discovered the different types of people that are playing this game that I (we) love so much, the game of entrepreneurship. I learned how to handle difficult problems, how to handle enormous amounts of stress and how to strategize a victory to save my own life.
If you study the success patterns of the ultra-rich and super-successful people, you quickly discover that every self-made entrepreneur, no matter how big or small, had to encounter problems, and lots of them. Successful entrepreneurs recognize problems as a sign of life, a sign of the fact that you are “in business.” Having absolutely no problems means either you are lazy or you are not in business at all. Every business, every entrepreneur, and every government has problems. The bigger you get, the bigger your problems are, the bigger the problems you solve, and the bigger (and better) you become.
Learning to solve problems is the basic key to achieving success as an entrepreneur, so how do you solve big problems? How do you avoid being “taken” by the problem? How do you handle the pressure of too many issues to deal with? And how do you become a problem solving entrepreneur? This short article will give you the key elements to handling and solving problems regardless of size, quality or quantity, the mastery of which will turn you into a very successful entrepreneur.
1: Realize that you have a problem. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse and, like a wound, if a problem is not treated, its infection could bring down the organism you worked so hard to build. Don’t let problems grow into monsters by ignoring them; when you realize you have a problem, write it down on a piece of paper. Don’t spend time or energy analyzing the problem (not yet anyway), just acknowledge that there is a problem.
2: Problems are only challenges, and a challenge is an opportunity. God, the universe, or whatever you want to call it, gives us problems as a way to test our abilities–that’s it. People read too much into challenges, they see them as these impossible tasks and they brand them as “problems” instead of seeing them for what they really are: tests, challenges, stepping stones, ways to prove ourselves and ways to improve our ability in solving difficult challenges. A good way to understand this is by looking at mathematics: In the field of mathematics problems are a good thing, they are a way to prove your ability to solve them. Start by rephrasing challenges in your mind: never call a challenge a “problem,” look at it as a “challenge” and you’ll have a better chance of dealing with it. When you solve a “problem” you become better at it, you have no problem walking right? That’s because you spent years of your life overcoming that challenge, and now you do it without even thinking about it. As a final example, starting a business for the first time is a big challenge, but when you do it over and over again it becomes automatic, because you gain the skill to solve problems related to starting a business.
3: Knowledge eliminates problems. It’s very simple: when you know what to do, doing it is no longer a big challenge is it? It’s relatively easy to get a $10M loan from the bank If you know how the financial banking system works better than the banker you are sitting across from. It’s easy raising capital from investors when you know how to build and present business plans, and if you have developed that “conviction skill” which was, at one point, a challenge to develop. It’s easy dealing with a difficult contractor if you know his project better than he does. The more you know, the less likely it is that problems will become “problems” rather than challenges. Of course, it is unreasonable to think that you’ll have no challenges. And you need challenges. Without challenges, you probably don’t have a business or you are playing it very safe.
When facing a challenge, read about it and spend as much time as possible studying it and understanding how to solve it. Don’t, I repeat, don’t spend time thinking and trying to analyze the problem, only the solution; spending more than 10 minutes on the problem will put you in a horrible mood, and you can’t overcome challenges when you are in a horrible mood. After you solve the problem, spend a few minutes understanding how to avoid similar problems in the future.
4: Build (or think of) a plan of action immediately. I learned (the hard way) that when you have free time when a problem is floating over your head, one of two things will happen – you’ll either begin to slowly deny it or you’ll begin to sink into a deep depressive mood (even if it’s just temporary). Don’t let problems defeat you, build a plan of action right away. The plan of action should be based on your previous experience solving similar problems, so ask yourself, “Have I ever solved a similar problem?” and, if so, “How?” If you have never encountered such a problem before, start by asking yourself the following:
A. What’s good about this situation? No matter how bad the situation is, there is something good about it. If you just lost all of your backup files and your PC’s hard drive was deleted, then you learned a lesson – starting now, every week, you’ll back up your materials on a CD. Or maybe this gave you a chance to build a new system to manage your clients, one you would never build before because you had all that “other stuff” going on. If the bank denied your loan, you now know why (banks usually give details as to why they denied you), and you can use this information to achieve success with the next bank; write down the reason for the denial, and come up with a way to show the next banker that it’s not a problem. If you lost a big client, you now have the tools needed to keep your next clients close, and you also get the opportunity to set yourself a challenge – getting him/her back. Be sure to take notes when you encounter a loss, so that you learn the lesson for next time you try – that’s the great thing about life, if you lose, you dust yourself off, and get back up.
B. What should I be thinking about right now? This question puts you back on track, and gets you to focus on the real solution, rather than the problem.
C. How can this problem be solved? Write down at least 5-10 solutions to the problem (challenge), just like you would with a mathematical problem. Write 5 to 10 and don’t worry about the “how,” you’ll focus on the “how” later. So, let’s say you sell chairs for a living, and you are dealing with a lack of funds that will seriously affect the health of your organization. How do you solve this problem? Write down your key question, “How do I make a revenue of $10,000 by the end of this month?” Now, what do you think are 5-10 possible solutions for this problem (challenge)? Well, there are at least 50. Always know and always remember this phrase: “There Is Always A Way!” I am a big believer that no matter what you encounter, you can solve any problem by focusing on this phrase. So, for this example:
1 – Sell 400 chairs to a restaurant or large facility.
2 – Create a huge summer sale – get rid of all your stock at a discount and advertise it.
3 – Sell a bulk of chairs on eBay or another auction site.
4 – Create a consignment campaign, place 500 chairs in furniture stores around your area.
5 – Advertise a bulk campaign in a restaurant magazine.
6 – Get a loan from the bank to sustain the business until sales pick up.
7 – Commit to selling X items each day, and don’t rest until you do.
There are many more ways to accomplish this specific goal of reaching certain revenue, the ways to do so are endless. Now that you have the “How,” you need to get to work.
5. Take Action. After asking yourself the right questions, and looking at the situation from a different angle, it’s time to take action. You can analyze your situation to death and not achieve a thing if you don’t take any action. Get off your ass: pick up the phone and get going. For the challenge I presented earlier, “make X dollars in revenue,” you would want to pursue all 5 options mentioned above, so it’s time to take action:
1 – Sell 400 items to one large corporation:
Make a list of 300 large corporations that would be able to offer such a large quantity purchase. If you are selling chairs, you may want to focus on facilities, furniture chain stores, new restaurants, hotels, motels, office buildings, designers, etc. If you are selling books, you want to focus on chains that are related to your book, for example, a How To Fix Your PC book would go well in every store or large chain that sells PC equipment, personal computers, or PC software. Make a list – the bigger the better. Understand that sales is a numbers game (again, we return to knowledge, the more you know…): call 10 companies and you will get disappointed because no one is interested. Call 100, and you’ll learn that at least 20 seem interested. Call a 1,000 and you’ll make your sale. You probably are wondering: “What?, I’m going to have to call 1,000 people?” Why not? Why should you be discouraged from only calling 1,000 businesses, why not call 5,000 businesses? Colonel Sanders got rejected 800 times before he heard his first yes; he didn’t give up, and you shouldn’t either.
2 – Create a huge summer sale. In business, it’s all about “the word:” getting the rumor out is essential, and it doesn’t have to take months, you can create and distribute a press release in one day. It’s really not that difficult once you know how.
3 – Sell a bulk of chairs on eBay. Something like this should be your last resort, but it’s always good to have plan B, C and D, in case plan A doesn’t work out.
You get the point.
Most importantly, don’t quit, and don’t let problems defeat you; instead, do your best to solve them as soon as they pop out. Don’t delay, don’t be lazy and be prepared, because you’ll encounter problems. Problems are just a sign of life, we need problems to develop our skills and become better businessmen. Top executives earn millions of dollars in salaries because they solve big problems. Billionaires make their mark by solving big problems. Anticipate problems, be ready for them, and you’ll do fine. And remember: you have no problems, only challenges. If you want to see people with problems, visit South Africa, Nigeria and other places where people suffer from a lack of food and fresh water and are facing death every single day, then you’ll see people with problems. Understand that you are lucky to be living in this amazing country and, as long as you work hard and stay focused, no problem will be too big to solve.
Do a good job, and you’ll be a winner.