ASK ALAN: Where to Find Solutions to Your Business Problems?
For Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners
We business owners have spent much of our recent time trying to figure out how to survive, re-open, and recover from the COVID-19 shutdown.
Many of us are beginning to open. We are being confronted with new problems we have not faced before. This is the perfect time to look in places you have never considered before for solutions to your business problems. Most of my (new) business owner-clients look outside their business for solutions to problems. They ask their friends, relatives — even strangers for their ideas and suggestions!
Look in places you haven’t looked before!
The size of the business you own does not matter. What matters is that you look in places you may not have considered before. The people who are closest to your business and have the most to gain and lose … your employees, subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, and customers.
Ask them, “what would you do if you were in this situation?”
If your company’s culture encourages authenticity and openness, then you already know how valuable suggestions from employees can be. After all, these people know more about your business than you think.
They observe what goes on and, in many cases, know where the problems are and have ideas on how to fix them. Plus, research shows when employees are engaged and participate in problem-solving, they are more productive and feel better about coming to work each day.
Subcontractors/Vendors/Suppliers – Your Strategic Partners
How about thinking of these people as, “strategic partners? Mark Richardson, author of the bestselling book How Fit is Your Business, suggests that you, “eliminate the word “vendor” from your business vocabulary – and replace it with “strategic partner.”
Doing this, he claims, re-stacks the deck and causes you to look at them differently. “You both look for win-win solutions and ideas,” Richardson says. “These partnerships are worth ten times more than other alliances. They will provide more ideas, solutions, contacts, and insights that will really help your business.” He further suggests that, “once you find them, you need to invest more time and energy to cultivate these relationships.”
Customers are more than willing to share their ideas — however, typically it is when they are dissatisfied. A former client of mine was looking for new product ideas. They manufacture commercial liquid, (like grease and adhesive) dispensing guns. I coached them to consider that they might be “too close” to their products! Then, they acted on my suggestion, to ask prospects and customers for “their” new product suggestions, at a trade show.
It only took one customer!
This “one” customer said, “your products would be much easier to use if they were available in a cordless version, like some cordless power tools!” Within a short time, a prototype was created and tested. Today that company is the leading provider of commercial cordless liquid dispensing guns, in the nation.
Giving and Getting
Asking for help is NOT a weakness! It solidifies your position as a leader. Reciprocity is often the result. It helps cement relationships and makes you a better person, in the eyes of others.
If you want “great” solutions to your business problems, ask the people around you. Doing this will provide “solutions … with benefits” you never dreamed of!